It’s easy to imagine what factors might hinder productivity and creativity in the workplace, such as: a small office, lack of light, isolation from colleagues, noise and a stressful atmosphere, to name a few. However, it’s not quite so easy to flip this on its head and think about what might increase or aid productivity. And even if you’re bursting with ideas, how do you incorporate them into an office space that might be difficult to change or to make improvements you can’t afford or that you can’t get permission for? Here Eugene O’Sullivan, Director at Morgan Pryce, presents five tips for increasing productivity in the office workplace – just remember the following: mind, body, soul, inside and outside.
Research has proved that employees do not work well under stress, and employers can work to target the causes – if work related – as well as the effects. Stress can be induced by inadequate work arrangements, disorganisation, work overload, or of course, by issues outside the workplace. One the one hand, managers can help by allocating a specific person that employees can go to if they feel affected by work pressures. On the other hand, how about investing in ways to combat the effects of stress? Have a massage therapist visit to give your staff at-desk massages on a regular basis, and monitor who is and isn’t taking advantage of the offer. Those who avoid it may be those most in need of the break. You could also ask a yoga or pilates instructor to visit to advise office workers how to put into practice gentle exercise while at their desks.
Today’s working environment inevitably means sitting in one position for extended amounts of time; we see people typing emails with a telephone wedged into their neck, or sitting for hours without a glimpse of daylight. Posture and comfort are vital to productive work, as is movement. Try and ensure that all staff have access to natural light, and if this isn’t possible, invest in daylight-effect light bulbs. Ensure desks and chairs are appropriate for their users and listen to employees who suffer from particular physical problems and who may need more specialist furniture. Becoming more and more popular are ‘standing desks’. Why not install a standing desk area where employees can take a break from their usual space? A change of scene and a change of position can work together to boost the level of your staff’s work. Keep your employees healthy: get rid of the sweet machine and provide free fruit, herbal teas and healthy snacks to reduce the effects of caffeine and sugar-highs and lows.
All work and no play leads to absenteeism and compromised productivity. More and more companies are realising the benefits of providing relaxation areas for their employees. Such areas should be well thought out – ask for the views of your staff as to what they want and need, and how they would like the area to look. Forget drab and dingy: people will prefer to stay at their desks for their lunch and this is a well-known recipe for decreased productivity. Create a light and welcoming eating/break-out area, with good facilities that encourage relaxation and a rest from the job. Subscribe to magazines your employees can read while on a break to give them a mental break and don’t allow old and ragged magazines to build up and clutter up this space. If the office area is noisy, let the rest area be quiet, and if your employees spend hours alone at their desks, then perhaps introduce music or a radio into the rest area. Put some art on the walls and plants around the entire office, but, whatever you do, ensure someone is responsible for watering them. Dead plants are not conducive to a good working environment.
People choose to work in many different ways: some are inherently neat and tidy while some seem to create clutter wherever they are. Clutter is often a result of bad time management; it evolves when employees are too busy, or think they are too busy, to deal with papers as they go along. Offer – or even enforce – time management training to help your staff deal with the build-up of paper and emails. There are many strategies to help reduce clutter, but many of your employees may not have thought about them or believe they can implement them. If a tidy office isn’t maintained, the alternative of decluttering a whole office takes a significant amount of time: it is much better to address it on an ongoing basis. One mid-size UK law firm has dealt with the issue by having a firm-wide communal filing session once a fortnight, where everyone from partners to secretaries sort out their office together. Remember also, the paperless office is also not immune to the effect of mess: digital clutter – whether emails or files – has its own problems and staff may simply need to be shown simple ways to manage and organise the content of their computers.
in this digital day and age, staff do not have to be stuck at their desk for the entirety of the working day. Emails, smartphones, laptops, online working: it all means that staff can work from other locations if need be. This can give employees a change of scene if they wish – productivity doesn’t have to be limited to the office. People can be productive in their own home or even in a café. It’s important, as an employer or a manager, to remember that some people are ‘morning’ people and some are more productive later on. Consider flexible working systems that allow you to get the best from your staff at the times they work most efficiently – and which may also allow them to avoid a stressful rush-hour commute. And finally, by creating a positive, creative and welcoming space inside your building, you can hope that when your staff approach the outside of it at the beginning of their working day, it’s not with trepidation but with enthusiasm.
There are various strategies and ideas that can help increase productivity in the office, but many of them come down to listening to the employees and what they want, and then giving them somewhere to work in which you would be prepared to spend at least eight hours a day. As the workplace and work-world has become ever more instant, accessible and demanding, and as it crosses over into home-life and home-time, it is more important than ever to make that working environment a place that is positive and nurturing to your employees – both inside and out.