How To Promote Productivity In The Office
Employee productivity is no longer based on hours spent staring at a computer screen — but the amount of time workers are doing their best thinking alone and in collaboration with colleagues.
Well-designed spaces, smart time management, along with happiness and motivation all interplay to help employees perform their best on the job. Here are a few tips to ensure that employees are on their A game and the office is a well-oiled machine.
A MIX OF SPACES
A mix of individual and group work spaces ensures that employees can tackle different types of tasks throughout the day. “For most professionals they have both individual and collaborative work that they have to do and both require very different skills and levels of concentration,” says space strategist Stevie Toepke of Flourish Spaces. “And that is where a really well-designed space can make all the difference.”
Spaces that are focused on collaboration 24/7 detract from focused individual work, and old-school models where employees are walled off in cubicles discourages working together. “Making sure you have a work space that accounts for both of those needs is very important,” says Toepke.
To find balance in open-concept offices, there should be places where employees can get away. Private spaces are important for people who are introverted or perform better alone, or for difficult discussions between colleagues. In workplaces with closed-off cubicles, create cozy spaces where employees can hang out and chat throughout the work day.
KEEP THEM MOVING
More and more companies are moving away from traditional office layouts with assigned seating.
“If you want to encourage collaboration that is something as an employer you might look at, not having assigned seating and allowing people to move around and talk to each other openly” says career and business coach Crystal Marsh of Crystal Marsh Coaching.
A variety of postures — standing, sitting, and even lounging — are important to keep employees physically active and mentally stimulated throughout the day. Standing desks give employees the flexibility to change positions, so they aren’t hunched over their computers for 8 hours.
MAKE MINUTES COUNT
Increase the amount of work done in the day by embracing time management methods like the Pomodoro Technique.
“We lose a lot of our productivity to something called ‘context switching.’ If we switch to something for a few seconds it takes time for our mind to readjust to a new task,” says Marsh. “Working for four hours you may only be productive for two-and-a-half hours because you are switching back and forth.”
Set a timer for 25 minutes and work without distraction and then take a 5-minute break. Do this exercise four times so that it amounts to two hours. To successfully embrace this time management method close tabs on your computer, hide your phone and let colleagues know that you can’t be interrupted.
Promote interaction among workers by creating collision points throughout the office. The water cooler, coffee machine and elevator are places of natural convergence where employees share information and connect over ideas. Toepke suggests creating sitting areas and perches near these natural collision points to encourage formal discussions between workers, so they can sit and chat for awhile.
“To encourage collaboration, employers can set up meetings or mixers,” adds Marsh. Or do things the old-fashioned way. “Starting relationships is the best approach. Get to know your coworkers and allow things to develop organically.”
MAKE (GOOD) NOISE
The right amount of noise has been shown to increase productivity within the workplace. In a study published by Oxford University Press, it was found that background noise triggers abstract thinking and enhances creativity. If you are looking to experiment with sound and productivity in your workplace, just pop in your ear buds and head over to Coffitivity to listen to an ambient soundtrack.
“You want enough of a buzz but not so much that it takes people away from the conversations they need to have,” says Toepke.
If the office is too boisterous, mask sound with white noise machines or laid-back music. Or look to furniture and decor to help soften sounds. Noise absorbing panels can double as art work, and companies like BuzziSpace have a line of stylish contemporary furniture that absorbs sound.
LET THE LIGHT IN
“Light is naturally going to affect productivity especially in terms of innovative high-quality idea generation,” says Toepke.
A recent study reveals that employees that work in offices that are illuminated by natural light report an 84 percent drop in eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision. Poorly lit offices without windows, harsh fluorescent lighting, and computer screens can have negative affects on the psyche and health.
“The study found that optimizing the amount of natural light in an office significantly improves health and wellness among workers, leading to gains in productivity,” says Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell who conducted the study. “As companies increasingly look to empower their employees to work better and be healthier, it is clear that placing them in office spaces with optimal natural light should be one of their first considerations.”