Think office design is just interior decorating? Think again. Research shows that workers are significantly more productive and less stressed in more aesthetically pleasing office environments.
Our favorite study, from Ohio State University and the National Institute of Mental Health, tracked 60 office workers in a government facility in the Midwest. Some of the workers were assigned to an older building, with low ceilings and loud air conditioners. Others went to a newer, renovated space with open cubicles and skylights. Guess which group was happier and more productive at the end of the year?
If you guessed the folks with light and air, you’re right. Researchers measured the stress levels of both groups, and found that the workers in the less lovely work environment were “significantly more stressed, even when they weren’t at work.”
So what’s a productivity-minded company to do? Make a few of these office design tweaks, and watch your employees whistle while they work.
1. The higher the ceiling, the bigger the ideas.
Joan Meyers-Levy, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota, demonstrated that people in rooms with high ceilings are “significantly better at seeing the connections between seemingly unrelated subjects.” In her study, students were 25 percent better at making connections between games like chess and basketball when seated in a room with higher ceilings.
2. Change the color of the walls.
If you’re stuck with low ceilings, you can still help your workers make connections faster and more accurately. It might be as simple as painting. For instance, psychologists have found that people who work in rooms with red walls do better with tasks involving accuracy, such as copyediting and performing calculations. Blue environments, on the other hand, support creative thinking.
3. Heat the place.
Anyone who’s ever worked in an office knows that one of the most common office worker complaints is about temperature. Generally, it’s about the office being too cold, although we’ve worked in plenty of places with faulty AC, and that generates plenty of griping as well. In addition to the fact that people work better when they’re comfortable, heating and cooling the office appropriately will save your workers hours of time that they otherwise would have spent complaining about the temperature.
4. Provide plenty of light.
This one seems obvious: No one likes working in a dark, airless cave. But bad lighting does more than just crush workers’ souls: It also causes fatigue and eye strain. Several studies have shown that poor lighting significantly affects productivity.
5. Create an open office … but not too open.
While open plan offices are cheaper and allow more collaboration, they can also be stressful for employees. Provide some private workspace for folks who need peace and quiet to complete their tasks, and you’ll get the best of both worlds.