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Something's in the Air: Strategies You Can Implement Now to Improve Employee Performance & Productivity

Looking to maximize performance and productivity? As they say in real estate, "Location, Location, Location!"

Often overlooked, employers can make small yet targeted changes to workplace surroundings that can have a significant impact on employee health and wellbeing. Consideration given to color, the addition of plants or music, and furniture choices are all components that impact stress, tension, hostility and even fatigue.

One study found significant reductions in stress among workers after just one plant was added to their workspace.

Don’t have the budget for costly renovations? We’ve compiled our top 3 strategies below (for every budget) to help you reap the benefits of a healthier and more productive office environment.

    1. Paint & Plants

      A simple change in paint color can impact mood, depression, anxiety and productivity. Green promotes better health by reducing eye fatigue and generating a sense of calmness, while research shows us that yellow enhances creativity, and both blue and green can improve productivity. Consider the science behind color when renovating office spaces and use color to elicit the work to be done.

      Plants and "nature-scapes" aren't just for the cool start-ups anymore. Introducing plants at any workspace can decrease stress, depression and anxiety, as well as increase productivity, as noted in a recent university study. Plants also help purify the air we breathe—A 1980’s NASA study was one of the first to discover that plants were removing chemicals from the air, making it cleaner for humans to breathe.

      By switching up the colors in your conference room and adding new greenery to the workplace, you’ll have a positive effect on your employees’ performance and productivity.

      Tactics to Try:

      • Highlight creative spaces with oranges, yellow or high energy reds.
      • Use calming blue and green colors to promote focus and productivity.
      • Even floral arrangements, furniture and flooring color choices can direct the energy of your employees.
      • Purchase small houseplants (tolerant to indoor environments) for each employee's desk.
        • Encourage "green thumb" employees to share knowledge with botanical newbies (a great way to promote inter-office connections).
      • Consider adding larger plants to common areas for increased natural views.

    3. Sounds of Silence (And High Performance)

      Silence or energizing music? White noise or a low cadence of instrumental music? Personal headphones—yay or nay? When it comes to a working environment, personal preferences are as varied as the choices for an office-wide lunch order.

      Employers, however, can trust the research showing that background noise does impact productivity. A 2014 Steelcase/Ipsos study found that employees can lose up to 86 minutes per day due to noise distractions. Open concept offices pose additional noise challenges and can decrease employee performance as well. Even levels of stress, anxiety and frustration are linked to this lack of personal space and the ability to control the dial.

    4. Tactics to Try:

      • Implement daily quiet hours or dedicate an area of the office as a quiet section.
      • Have noise-canceling headphones on-hand.
      • Encourage employees to work in small conference rooms as needed.
      • Decorate walls with materials that double as both high-quality soundproofing materials and unique pieces of art.
      • Bring back office cubes or partitions to block sound (less aesthetically pleasing, but effective).
      • Strategically place plants in the office to buffer sound, like the way we plant trees along a highway to block traffic noise.
      • Give employees access to personal music platforms, such as Spotify or Pandora.
      • Mask conversation noise with low background environmental sounds or instrumental music.
      • Encourage employees to speak up and consider visual indicators for “do not disturb.”
        • A company called Luxafor makes a USB light that clips onto your laptop screen and changes colors to signal your availability.


    5. Temperature, Furnishing & Lighting

      According to research published by the Journal of Public Affairs, Administration and Management, the impact of temperature on productivity can dramatically vary by gender. Men, for example, are more impacted by furnishings, while temperature has a greater effect on women. It’s important to keep tabs on what your employees are saying about the temperature—too hot or too cold can lead to burnout, increased errors, and decreased productivity.

      Furnishings play a big part in productivity levels as well. Not only does sitting at a desk all day have a negative effect on posture but also on your ability to stay attentive. Incorporating standing desks and high-top tables (with no chairs) in localized areas of the office can help increase blood flow and get those ideas pumping.

      Lousy lighting is also associated with poor mental and physical health causing eye strains, headaches, stress and more. The lack of natural sunlight plays a significant factor in the effect on your employees' productivity.

      Tactics to Try:

      • Increase use of salt lamps that add a soothing glow and emit positive ions.
      • Maintain bright lights throughout the office or offer extra lamps/lighting for cubicles that do not get enough light.
      • Keep window blinds open to allow more light into the office.
      • When renovating, consider a variety of furnishings to appease gender differences.
      • Have blankets or fans around to mitigate the thermostat war (consider offering company-branded versions to further support the effort to promote use).
      • Offer standing desks or high-top tables in localized areas throughout the office.
      • Utilize large movable barriers, from companies like Steelcase, to turn any open space into a more private conference room-like area that a team can use

    Increasingly, research is bearing out the link between office environmental influences and the bottom line. By incorporating components from these 3 strategies, your workplace can benefit from the positive impact on your employees' performance and productivity. In addition, your employees gain a positive boost to mental and physical health—equating to a cultural Win-Win!

    To learn more about how you can keep your employees mentally and physically healthy, check out the 2019 Health & Wellbeing Trends.