A Drab Office Environment Kills Productivity. Here Are 3 Ways to Upgrade Your Workspace. Work environment can have a significant impact on performance.
- Invest in design.
- Incorporate natural elements.
- Cultivate a sense of home.
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I was at my first well-being workshop and couldn't stop hearing the irritating drip of the coffee machine at my workplace. This was a phantom noise that accompanied me even outside of office hours. Our instructor indicated we close our eyes and picture our work environments as a haven, one where we were free to be our most productive selves. But whenever I'd shut my eyes, all I could see were sterile walls and the cheap lighting at our corporate headquarters. There was nothing peaceful or soothing about this image, to say the least.
"Your well-being is a reflection of your environment," the instructor explained.
I tried to visualize an oasis instead. What would I actually want my workplace to look like? I pictured a welcoming environment with lush plants lining the walls. Sleek and vibrant furniture. Inviting colors and spaces. I figured that if I couldn't experience all of this firsthand, I'd at least use my imagination.
This was more than 17 years ago, back when I was a programmer for a large company in New York. It was at that point in my career that I vowed to do differently if I ever owned my own business. People would want to come to work.
Fast forward to this year, and I've been CEO of my form-building company for more than a decade. The memory of that workshop remains fresh even now. And I've worked tirelessly to ensure that my team doesn't have to use their "imagination" to feel comforted by their environment.
How environmental aesthetics impacts you
In my new book Automate Your Busywork, I talk about saving your brain for the big stuff. And that involves looking after our overall well-being, including the places we spend the bulk of our time in.
The environmental aesthetics of our workplace has a greater impact on our mood, motivation and productivity than we know. According to Vikram Rao at The Economic Times, our environment greatly influences our performance and mental framework. More than that, it encourages us to be happier and more efficient in all aspects of our lives. "A bright and cheerful space invariably uplifts the mood and productivity, and also has a beneficial psychological impact on employees," Rao writes.
"A quality workspace design leads to a less stressful and more productive atmosphere," writes Forbes contributor Alan Kohll. "Employees need to feel comfortable and calm in their physical work settings to produce their best work."
Research from the Fellowes Work Colleague of the Future Report found that to enjoy good health in the future, we need to broaden our health focus from just gyms and restaurants to our lives as a whole. And one of the key areas is the office.
The researchers also noted the following: "Globally, more people work in offices than any other work environment. And yet, this setting is becoming hazardous to our well-being. Unchecked, the office is set to present a significant threat to each nation's future health, and ultimately, its productivity."
Avoiding the above, then, is instrumental for our teams to be at the top of their game. Here are some ways you can create a workplace that fosters greater well-being.
Invest in design
If you've ever stared blankly at a sea of cubicles or a floor layout full of disorganized desks, then you clearly understand the way a space can affect us psychologically. We shudder at the chaos and feel our mood instantly drop.
This is not the kind of mindset that leads to successful outcomes. That's why, at my company, Jotform, design takes priority. We have plenty of natural light when you first walk in and keep furniture as uncluttered as possible to create a sense of harmony.
Since founding my business in 2006, I've dabbled in different office designs. And I believe that investing in the right atmosphere inspires our teams to explore their creativity and come up with more innovative solutions. A concept I discuss at length in my book is how this kind of creative thinking not only boosts our levels of happiness, but it also improves our mental health over time.
Providing a mix of multiple workspaces — including open space — helps eliminate a sense of monotony. You can also add modern amenities like a cozy lounge and a quiet room.
Incorporate natural elements
There's a reason why some of the greatest minds in history did their boldest thinking while outdoors. Studies have shown that natural environments or environments with natural elements enhance our creative performance. Researchers find that "Dealing with the daily work process and preparing and understanding new work problems could consume our directed attention, leading to attention fatigue."
By incorporating plants in your workplace, however, you can help minimize these effects. "A restorative environment provides a sense of escape from the usual, recovery from attention fatigue, and the potential to generate ideas through mind-wandering."
Making room for beautiful succulents in the workplace offers a respite from the daily grind. Aside from creating a calm and relaxing atmosphere, plants also help to improve the air quality within a space.
Cultivate a sense of home
Since we spend a good portion of our time at work, it's important to build a warm and inviting space where people can feel like themselves.
When team members close their eyes and visualize coming into the office the next day, I don't want them to picture a sterile and drab work environment. Offering an atmosphere that nurtures their creativity is one of the most valuable investments I can make, and it will yield some of the greatest rewards for days to come.