When you're looking for ways to increase your employees' well-being, your thoughts probably turn to medical benefits, steps challenges, and perks like healthy snacks in the kitchen. It's true that those considerations all matter, but there’s another factor in employee engagement and job satisfaction that’s pervasive, yet often overlooked: office design. "The evidence linking good office design and improved health, well-being and productivity of staff is now overwhelming," according to Jane Henley, CEO of the World Green Building Council. But you don't need a brand-new building to improve your employees' work experience. Below is a quick look at how some simple environmental design changes can bring immediate results in employee health and productivity.
Check your ergonomics
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) explains that a poorly constructed work station can actually cause musculoskeletal injuries. Chairs at the wrong height or keyboards that force the worker's wrist into awkward flexing are just two of the many potential risk factors for people whose work involves hours at the computer. Reviewing the height, angle, and structural support of office work stations and making the changes recommended by AAOS can improve your employees' comfort and productivity.
Workers need some privacy
Privacy is one of the key elements of an ideal work space, according to the American Society of Interior Designers. While employees need some access to each other to develop a sense of teamwork, an entirely open-plan work space tends to be distracting. Research in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that worker satisfaction is dependent on maintaining some level of privacy, and the social benefits of open-plan offices can be outweighed by their negative impact on employee well-being. This problem is easily mitigated by purchasing inexpensive screening dividers that give each employee a bit of personal territory. When feasible, constructing private booths throughout the office is also a great way to give employees a quiet, private space to conduct phone calls or work without interruption.
Contact with nature makes a difference
Numerous studies conducted over the past century have repeatedly proven that working in natural light increases employee health and productivity. Furthermore, when workers have a view of natural vegetation, either through a window or within the office, they stay more alert and perform better on attention tests. If you have windows in your work space that tend to stay covered, try raising the blinds and turning off the overhead lights. An alternate strategy is to install light bulbs that provide a spectrum of light similar to sunshine, and to bring some healthy green plants into your office.
It doesn’t take a lot. Employee engagement and happiness can hinge on subtle changes in the physical environment. If you take the time to make a few simple design improvements, your employees will understand that you care about their well-being, and your efforts can pay off in greater retention and productivity.