Office design experts go back and forth about which is the most productive plan. Do open-plan offices make employees more productive than office cubicles, or vice versa? Should we re-invest in private offices? Let everyone work at home, or on a flexible schedule? There are as many opinions as there are options.
The one thing all these plans have in common, however, is that they take a fair amount of cash to implement if you’re starting from scratch. What’s a frugal, productivity-minded organization to do?
The good news is that a few small design changes can yield big results, on the cheap. Here are five of our favorites:
Are you still making do with the bland, white walls the landlord painted before your company set up shop? You might be contributing to eye strain and bad-tempered employees. Paint is relatively cheap, and a change of color can make a big difference in productivity. Theories vary on which colors inspire folks the best, but blue is almost universally regarded as calming, while oranges and reds are thought to inspire energy and creativity.
2. Create Private Spaces
Even people who love open office spaces need a little privacy now and then. If your workers are complaining that they don’t have enough personal space, create some. Screens are always a good option, or you could go with these neat desk hoods by Sophie Kirkpatrick. These options can also be helpful for cubicle workers whose work areas are relatively open.
3. Add Plants
Another super-cheap way to perk up the office, plants are more than just a greener way to decorate. Plants make the office environment seem less sterile and can even clean the air. A study by Chichester College found that one plant per 100 square feet of office space is ideal for cleaning the air of chemicals like ammonia and formaldehyde.
Noise is a problem in most offices these days, in that there’s either too much of it or too little. Either can be distracting. (Anyone who doesn’t think a totally quiet office can’t be distracting has never tried to power through a report in an office where the only sound is a few dozen coworkers clack-clack-clacking away on their keyboards.) Sound masking is a relatively inexpensive way to cope with the problem. White noise is pumped in via speakers, obscuring all those small noises that can seem so loud when you’re trying to get things done.
Of course, the best light of all is natural light, but if you can’t provide that for all employees, add task lighting to make sure they can see what they’re doing. (And avoid nodding off.) When it comes to the type of light provided, most experts agree that full-spectrum bulbs are superior to standard fluorescents for boosting productivity and mood.