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Is your workplace environment damaging productivity?

Written by Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce | 03 May 2019

Despite the fact that we spend an average of 13 years of our life at work, the workplace environment hasn't always gotten the attention it deserves.

Historically, dull and dreary offices, poor lighting and makeshift equipment have impacted the employee mindset and noticeably affected productivity.

Now, with an abundance of new research highlighting the relationship between our environment and productivity, we're beginning to identify how certain (and often very simple) tweaks to the workplace can super-charge efficiency, employee satisfaction, retention and productivity.

We've pulled together this list of seemingly 'normal' workplace features that could potentially be damaging productivity levels.

Lack of flexibility

Workers today value the prospect of flexibility and remote-working more than ever before. 51% of employees wish their company offered more flexible work options. And in many cases, this perk is favoured over a pay increase.

The reluctance to offer more flexible and remote-working options might stem from the lack of visibility. If you can't see your employees, how do you know they are working? However, this perception is misinformed, and since working from home eliminates the commute, office distractions - like chit-chat and inefficient meetings - employees who work from home are often proven to be more productive.

In addition, flexible working options can be used to support employees suffering from mental or physical health issues, or working parents with childcare difficulties. It helps to facilitate continuity in their work and manage their workload more efficiently alongside other commitments. Putting those processes in place can therefore decrease the frequency of employee sick days, and foster greater trust and commitment within the workplace, promoting self-motivation and greater efficiency.

Unhealthy and sugary snacks

For many of us, having cakes and doughnuts at our disposal might seem like a perk. However, large amounts of sugar throughout the day is highly detrimental to concentration, productivity and focus. We've all heard of the infamous 'sugar crash', right? It tends to hit around 3pm and can be brought on by moderate amounts of sugar or caffeine, and it's the devil for productivity.

Rather, giving employees access to fresh fruit, filtered water and herbal teas could see a dramatic impact on their health and productivity. Everyone loves a biscuit now and then, but opting for healthier snacks and drinks such as smoothies, fresh fruit and nuts will help to keep employees healthy, alert and well-nourished throughout the working day.

Artificial lighting

Dim lighting without a doubt is a huge contributor to lower productivity. It's incredibly difficult to focus and remain alert when we're straining our eyes to see and trying to work in poor, artificial lighting.

Conversely, adequate, natural light is said to have a positive impact on employee focus and happiness. Moving desks or workspaces closer to windows, and ensuring bright lighting is maintained can improve employee productivity dramatically. In a study by Future Workplace, 70% of employees said that having access to natural light made them more productive.

Uncomfortable environment

Your environment as a whole will play a huge part in how your employees work. Being too cold, too warm, or uncomfortable in your space is a major distraction that makes it difficult to focus and concentrate. And poor working conditions can hurt morale over time affecting employee satisfaction and retention.

What’s more, ensuring people are physically comfortable at their workspace by providing supportive seating or the correct footwear can reduce pain and discomfort, and prevent injury that could have future consequences on productivity.

Ineffective technology

Software, wifi or technology of any kind that is slow or outdated can cause employee efficiency to lag. Dropping off Wifi or losing connection to your server can lose hours of working time, affecting employee engagement. What's more, ineffective and frustrating technology makes it more difficult to engage in deep work/flow. The 'flow' state is crucial for productivity, and describes the state of becoming completely immersed in an activity. If employees are continually interrupted by poor connectivity, that lack of flow can really hurt their output. If this is an issue you are suffering with, investing in reliable and up to date technology will be an investment that brings return well into the future.

Noise levels

65% of SMEs feel that playing music in the workplace increased productivity, however, every worker has different preferences when it comes to noise and music in the workplace. Some people are instantly distracted by noise and other conversations and prefer to work in a quieter space. Catering for every preference is essential to improving productivity levels across the business. This could be achieved by creating break-out spaces or quiet rooms with Wifi connections, available for deep work or concentrated tasks. While access to music streaming services might be preferred for other segments of the workplace.

We spend so much of our working lives at work, it's incredibly important to ensure that space is conducive to our best work, our best mindset, and comfortable with plenty of natural light and air. Figuring out the needs of everyone can be difficult but the above examples are commonly associated with productivity and employee satisfaction. If you are noticing low productivity, engagement or motivation , it could be time to assess your workspace and environment, or simply speak with your employees to try and uncover any day-to-day frustrations which could be easy to resolve.

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Topics: employment

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