Office Space

7 Ways Your Office Affects Productivity (Without Your Realizing It)

Good lighting, attention to ambient noise levels and the installation of plants are all very well. Of course, they can't compete with pay policies.
7 Ways Your Office Affects Productivity (Without Your Realizing It)
Image credit: Zastolskiy Victor | Shutterstock
Guest Writer
Freelance writer
5 min read
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Human behavior is hard to predict, but we know it can be significantly influenced in subtle ways. You may not just be able to drastically improve your (or your team’s) productivity by introducing a new tool that helps them stay better organized, but you may be able to boost morale and efficiency simply by changing your team’s office environment.

Related: Facebook's Utopia, Our Nightmare: Open Offices Are Destroying Productivity

Subtle factors that influence productivity

Your environment can shape not only how you work and stay organized, but also your mood and disposition. Take a look at these seven empirically backed factors, which could change how your team works and feels over the course of a day:

1. Lighting

Take a look at your office lighting, including how much natural light you let into the office. Bright light, present on a regular basis, has been shown to make people happier, reducing both anxiety and depression. And sufficient lighting can reduce the onset of computer vision syndrome, as well.

If possible, choose an office space with plenty of open windows. If those are absent, install blue-tinted, bright lighting to ensure your team has ample lighting to keep working productively.

2. Ambient noise

Total silence isn’t necessarily good for productivity, but auditory disturbances can make your productivity plummet; research shows your productivity can actually drop 66 percent when you’re exposed to nearby conversations, distracting noises like a squeaky shopping cart or a public service announcement over a loudspeaker.

Providing some level of ambient noise, at a consistent volume, can help cover up some of these distracting noises. Providing closed offices or cubicles also affords employees more privacy.

3. Music

Hundreds of studies have attempted to determine whether music is truly effective at improving productivity: Some individuals insist it is and others insist it’s just a distraction. The current consensus is somewhere in the middle.

Low- to moderate-volume music can have a positive effect on employee productivity, with a couple of caveats: The music personally preferred by a worker will have more of an effect than music adjudged to be neutral or even actively disliked (as you might imagine). Music with very clear lyrics can be distracting more than beneficial.

4. Air quality

Air quality isn’t as noticeable, as the presence of ambient noise or the lighting in your building, but can be even more impactful on your employees’ productivity.

Related: From Scientific Research Come 6 Moves You Can Make to Boost Office Productivity

Scientific reviews indicate that poor air quality can decrease productivity -- by as much as 6 to 9 percent according to a study reported on Pub Med. Providing more air circulation, better air filters and exposure to cleaner outdoor air can all be beneficial in improving your indoor air quality.

5. Temperature

Studies have found different “ideal” temperatures for a workplace environment, though the exact average temperature for peak productivity appears to be around 71 degrees F.

The caveat here, of course, are the drastic differences between individual preferences; while one employee may be operating at peak productivity, another may feel cold, and yet another may find the office too hot to be able to focus. You’ll have to experiment and adjust from this average to find the peak value for your own team.

6. Color

Color psychology is a controversial field, but there is evidence to suggest that different colors can have different effects on your employees’ morale and productivity. For example, blue is said to be stable and calming, helping workers de-stress and feel more relaxed. Green is said to reduce eye fatigue and help employees remain efficient. Red is linked to evoking emotion and passion, which is ideal for more competitive teams.

Try using different colors in different rooms to see how they affect your team’s responses and work ethic.

7. Plant life

It may not seem that a handful of office plants could increase your employees’ productivity by a measurable amount, but a study reported by Wired UK indicated plants could lead to a boost of up to 15 percent. There are varying theories as to why plants work, including their appealing “natural” scenery and oxygenating effect; whatever the reason, plants produce a measurable effect.

Are these changes enough?

Instituting changes in each of these categories in your office can improve your team’s overall productivity, but you should keep in mind that they may not be the most significant changes you can make; after all, employee morale has the potential to boost productivity by 20 to 25 percent (not to mention reducing turnover).

Related: Study: Office Plants Can Boost Productivity and Morale

If your employees are unhappy with the way they’re being managed or what they’re being paid, tweaking the lighting may not be enough to compensate for the difference. Improving employee productivity demands attention to many areas simultaneously, including the establishment of a reward system, improved morale and lots of feedback. Subtle environmental factors like the ones described above should be treated as what they are: mere icing on the cake.

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