Light & Air Quality
Two of the first things to consider when trying to optimise productivity are lighting and air quality. Bad lighting can cause fatigue, eyestrain, headaches and irritability, with studies also showing that dark spaces can actually produce depression. This is why it is important to have a good balance, not too bright but not too dark either! In the UK, workers spend on average of 22 hours a day inside, which is why it is vital that natural light should play a part in your office design.
A 2018 study conducted by researchers at Cornell University found an 84% drop in symptoms (blurred vision, headaches and eyestrain) in day lit offices. When working from home, sitting in bed with the blinds and windows shut is probably not the best solution. Make sure windows are open (for at least some part of the day), with plenty of natural light too.
Air quality is known as the ‘sleeping giant’ of the building industry. Modern buildings contain substances that are potentially hazardous to human health, ranging from normal dust, to major irritants, such as the chemical vapour off-gassing from the newer synthetic building materials being used today. Indoor air quality can be ten times worse than outdoor air on smoggy days in big cities, leading to a cost of £15bn a year due to ‘worker inefficiency’ and sick leave from poor air quality.
Green building designs are helping to combat poor air quality in office buildings, through improved ventilation, windows for fresh air and access to balconies too. Exhaust systems are also beneficial along with avoiding wood products containing formaldehyde and using low VOC interior paint.
In recent years, office plants have become a prominent feature in many places around the world. An abundance of studies have demonstrated how beneficial they can be, even if they are artificial. One Harvard study found improved ‘indoor environmental quality’ (plants) doubled occupants’ cognitive function.
Apple’s headquarters hosts 10,000 trees across their sprawling campus, in a bid to increase employees’ access to nature and aid productivity levels. Plants not only offer varying shades of green to the office, they also bring a visually meditative experience which, ultimately, leads to increased happiness and health. Plants are also said to reduce stress and blood pressure levels among office employees; therefore, it is probably beneficial to have some around the office.
Break Out Space
Some form of break out space is another important aspect to consider that can improve productivity. Having an alternative space which offers a change of scenery, and a place where people can switch off can help reduce stress at work. It demonstrates a good investment in employee well-being and moves away from more traditional office set-ups, where workers were merely cogs in a big machine cramped onto a sprawling office floor, only separated by cubicles.
Break out space offers employees an additional workspace too, giving them the added option of being able to go somewhere a little quieter to focus on an important task, giving them that flexibility to wind down or get some work done. Architecture firm Gensler have said that innovation businesses – especially in the tech sector – are offering ‘unprecedented levels of freedom for staff to modify their workspaces’. Google’s New York office has a climbing wall as a way for employees to ‘work out their tension’, aiding them to return to their desk in a better frame of mind than when they left.
Breakout space also promotes movement within the office, which is always an important factor to consider, making sure that even if employees don’t get too much exercise during the working day, at least they have to get up and stretch their legs to get to their quiet space. Increasing creativity and productivity, breakout spaces are essential, providing additional spaces for interaction and collaboration too.
Personal Space and Clutter
Having a well thought out personal space prioritising comfort and limiting desk clutter can help keep you from being distracted and maximise your productivity. So many of us are sat down for a good portion of the day, which means that it is very important to prioritise comfort. A slightly reclined chair posture is recommended, as it reduces pressure on your spine and prevents lower back pain.
Clutter can creep up on you, and before you know it, your desk can be swamped in paperwork, food wrappers, plates, cups and a whole host of distractions. Clutter hinders focus and productivity, so giving yourself 10 minutes a day to make sure things are put away, filed and organised or out of sight so that you aren’t distracted can be very helpful.
The temperature of your office is usually quite a challenging aspect to consider, because regardless of the advice given by experts, you will soon find that it is impossible to please everyone! Studies have shown that warmer rooms lead to increased productivity, and it is important to get it right. Having your office too hot or too cold can have adverse effects, with anything higher than 23 °C or lower than 20°C impacting on productivity.
The UK’s official guideline states that the minimum temperature for an office environment should be 16°C, however Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook likes to keep his offices at a cool 15°C. A study by the University of Helsinki demonstrated that office performance peaks at 22°C, however it is also important to remember that individual factors (age, weight, gender, clothing) all have an effect on this too.
Despite it only being a minor implication in terms of office design and productivity, room scents can change the vibe of the office and help with your focus. Smell has been proven to affect mood, mindset and productivity. Various scents that are office-friendly have proven benefits – for example, a peppermint scent lifts your mood, or a citrus scent helps you to feel awake and lifts the spirit. Pine scent increases alertness and cinnamon can improve focus, so it is a matter of personal choice when deciding how you want your office to smell.
Finally, it is crucial for the brain to be sufficiently nourished to maintain as switched on as possible throughout the working day – especially when concentrating hard for extended periods of time. The main advice for this would be to eat healthy, ditching junk food in the office. Being sat at a desk for most of the day does limit your calorie intake, as there is very little energy expenditure.
That is why it is important to eat well and drink water to stay hydrated. Junk food hinders productivity and can make you gain weight quicker. When thinking of snacks to bring into the office, try and look for fruit, nuts, hummus and crackers. Make sure that you are drinking more water than coffee too to remain hydrated. Quite often, a lack of focus, yawning and general unrest can be due to dehydration.
Ultimately, it is personal preference as to how you decide to style your office environment. However, when placing employee satisfaction, comfort and productivity, it is vital to create a physical environment that makes your workers want to be there. Offering them a variety of spaces to cool off and focus, along with small adjustments like good lighting and fresh air can create an ideal place for employee’s productivity and creativity to flourish.
To find out more about some of our flexible workspaces, take a look at what LSP has on offer https://www.liverpoolsciencepark.co.uk/space/