Can office comfort boost productivity?

Like a lot of people, you might find that your concentration ebbs and flows throughout the working day. Failing to get enough sleep at night or overindulging in the staff canteen at lunch can contribute to feelings of tiredness and make it harder to concentrate, but there may be more to your fluctuating work rates. A range of studies conducted over recent years have demonstrated that uncomfortable office environments can take their toll on employee productivity. This is something to bear in mind when you’re designing your work environment.

The risks of substandard seats and dodgy desks

If you think the standard of seating and desks in your office could be improved, now’s the time to take action. Bear in mind that badly designed and made furniture not only makes people’s working days less pleasant, it can also take its toll on their health. Unsupportive chairs and poorly planned desks can cause people to adopt awkward postures. Over a period of time, this can trigger musculoskeletal disorders. According to figures provided by the Health and Safety Executive, a total of 8.3 million working days were lost due to these disorders in 2013-14. Of course, not all of these injuries were the result of substandard office furniture, but the use of unsuitable chairs and desks undoubtedly contributed to this figure.

Fortunately, it’s now easy to get hold of high quality furnishings. Specialist suppliers like Furniture At Work offer a variety of products. When you’re buying supplies like these, bear in mind that for optimal comfort, workers should be able to sit with their thighs at right angles to their bodies or sloping down slightly. They should also be able to rest their feet on the floor or a foot rest and they should benefit from a supportive backrest. By providing your personnel with appropriate furniture, you may be able to reduce absence rates and up productivity among your staff members.

Why temperature’s a talking point

Temperature can be a hot topic (excuse the pun) in workplaces. Often, people disagree when it comes to setting office thermostats. It’s not surprising that heat is such a contentious issue when you take into account the impact it can have on productivity. According to research reported in Men’s Health, employees are most productive in environments that are between 71°F and 77°F. In cooler temperatures, productivity was found to lag. These findings echoed those of a 2004 study conducted by a team at Cornell University. They discovered that temperatures of 68°F or below increased worker errors. Professor of design and environmental analysis at Cornell’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory estimated that productivity could suffer by up to 10% in such conditions.

It’s no surprise then that many firms now keep a very close eye on the temperature of their workspaces.

How lighting can make you lazy

Even your office lighting could be impacting on your workers’ ability to function. In 2012, the scientist Mirjam Muench conducted a study that involved taking two separate groups of people. The first spent multiple days working in daylight while the second operated in artificial light. Higher levels of tiredness were reported among those exposed only to artificial illuminations.

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to maximise the amount of daylight within your office.

Excessive noise can send stress levels soaring

Open plan offices certainly have their benefits. However, one of their major shortcomings can be their tendency to get noisy. It just takes one over exuberant conversation to cause noise levels to spiral. As well as being a distraction for workers, evidence suggests this can have a negative impact on their wellbeing. A Cornell University study discovered higher levels of the hormone epinephrine, which is linked to stress, among workers in noisier environments.

A simple way to bring volume levels down is to use special sound-minimising office screens.

This guest post complies with my disclosure policy

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