18th March 2015

Improving your work environment for increased productivity and morale

British productivity and job satisfaction are low*, which is not simply a national problem but one that might well impact a little closer to home, i.e. on your organisation.

With the grey days and long cold nights of winter doing little to dispel the malaise, now might be a good time to tune up staff motivation and keep your team upbeat, with an insatiable appetite for the fray in today’s tough business ecosystem.

Office layout   

Employees are routinely grouped by job function or department. However, it is often more productive for them to be arranged so that they are with colleagues who share the same goals or clients.

Ask staff how they think the current layout can be improved. An open space with the option of private meeting and quiet work areas can work well. You may also want to think about interactive elements such as whiteboards, noticeboards, tablets, chalkboards, wall planners and staff incentive charts.

Getting the right ‘palette’   

Repeated studies have concluded that office environment design is key to boosting productivity.  A dark workspace is unlikely to inspire even the most creative minds, while natural wood, stone, white shades and purple are much more likely to generate a buzz.

Greens, blues and purples are often regarded as relaxed and inviting, while warmer colours - yellows, oranges and reds - are linked with warmth and vision. These colour palettes stimulate creativity without being distracting.

Natural light

A 2014 study** by Human Spaces - which explores the relationship between the built environment and health and wellbeing - polled 3,600 office workers in eight European countries. It concluded that natural light was employees’ top priority in the work environment. It boosts productivity and good health, with much additional research showing that being deprived of natural light increases seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

If natural light is limited, consider adding mirrors, which reflect it across a room while also creating the impression of a larger office.

Green spaces 

Creating green spaces in and outside the office will also enhance effectiveness and wellbeing there; plants offer psychological and visual benefits, as well as improving air quality. With this in mind, giving staff an outdoor area, if possible, or access to fresh air during working hours is also beneficial.

Lighting and comfort

The Health and Safety Executive recommends that office temperatures should be at least 16C, with a temperature between 21-22C considered comfortable.

Meanwhile, research is being conducted into improving the built environment, with some studies suggesting that small changes, such as effective lighting or background noise reduction, can reduce absenteeism by 15 per cent and increase motivation by 20 per cent.

Allow staff to be comfortable at work by giving them responsibility for their own space - keeping it tidy and adding their own personal effects. Providing practical aids, such as desk organisers and storage, will help them reduce clutter. 

Empowering your people to take control of where they work and feel at ease there, will give them a sense of ownership and engagement. To quote Ricardo Semler, the CEO of Semco Partners, a Brazilian company renowned for its industrial democracy: “People are responsible adults at home. Why do we suddenly transform them into adolescents with no freedom when they reach the workplace?”

Taking a few small steps in this direction of travel could make enormous strides in your efficiency, productivity and profitability.

*The Office for National Statistics recently revealed that British productivity per hour is 21 per cent below the average G7 nation, while CIPD figures posted the nation’s job satisfaction levels at just 42 per cent.

** By Professor Sir Cary Cooper, Lancaster University.

Return to Blog


What We Do

Get in touch

Telephone: +44 (0) 7770 827731

Email: enq@actinista.com