Even when your business is thriving and backed by a team of enthusiastic staff with well-defined goals and streamlined processes, factors like modern business pressures and market competition mean that there is always some room for improvement. One of the most important areas never to overlook is employee productivity. Interestingly, one basic factor that influences their productivity is the suitability of the physical environment where workers carry out their duties. Thus, organizations that are committed to boosting employee productivity need to seriously look into creating a space that is optimally maintained and facilitates productive and purposeful work.
Fortunately, improving the physical working environment doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive, difficult, or time-consuming endeavor. Here are seven straightforward tips you can apply to create an office environment that boosts productivity.
#1) Be strategic
A popular quote attributed to management thinker Peter Drucker says “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. In the context of office improvement, background information about your physical assets is foundational for success.
Start your office improvement venture by gaining insights into the exact portfolio of physical assets that currently keep your business running. This information should give you an overview of the specifications, quantities, working conditions, and locations of all machines and other physical assets currently available in your workplace. In particular, take time to note those critical assets that have the most potential to disrupt your business operations. Some equipment that comes to mind include:
- Electrical systems, motors, panels, and controls.
- Office equipment like computers, data servers, and VoIP intercom.
- Heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units
- Security and physical access control installations.
Also, this is an ideal time to note any machines that have displayed recurring failures over the years and then document a plan for improvements.
#2) Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) is critical
The connection between indoor comfort and employee productivity is undeniable. Over the years, several studies have established that poor indoor lighting, temperature, and air quality are detrimental to people’s health, efficiency, and productivity. However, in a busy workplace, it can be tricky to achieve temperature and lighting levels that are comfortable for everyone. For example, in the process of trying to get a comfortable temperature workers will typically attempt to manually adjust HVAC equipment several times daily – thereby increasing the risk of damaging it. A better alternative is to adopt a smart building control system. These systems are a combination of hardware and software components that are specifically designed to help you monitor and control different building components like indoor climate, lighting, and air quality. In addition to protecting your staff and the assets currently installed, these systems also improve energy efficiency, help to reduce energy bills, and many of them can be monitored from remote locations using a standard mobile phone.
#3) Prioritize equipment maintenance
From the water coolers in the staff room to the multifunction printers in admin, machines have become an integral part of modern work. Yet, each of these assets requires regular maintenance and attention to improve each asset’s reliability and minimize the risks of sudden shutdowns.
Sudden machine failure can be quite frustrating and inconvenient. Imagine your staff having to deal with a faulty printer on a busy day or a malfunctioning HVAC unit during a conference. These are common disruptions that can result in diminished productivity. Keeping a wide variety of office equipment in optimum condition can seem daunting. To ensure that equipment maintenance is well organized, monitored, and streamlined, it is strongly advisable to utilize a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). This is an all-in-one- maintenance software that automates maintenance planning and scheduling for all kinds of equipment.
#4) Don’t procrastinate
When everyone is busy with their primary jobs, it can often be tempting to overlook “small” problems in an office environment such as little cracks on the walls here and there, or ignoring a machine that suddenly becomes noisy, etc. However, when issues with your workspace aren’t addressed quickly, they tend to become bigger problems that can disrupt established workflow and result in hours or days of lost work.
Addressing issues with the physical space as they occur enables you to close them out quickly and preserve your workflow. For instance, continuing to use an obviously faulty electrical outlet can cause a fire and ruin everyone’s work for the day.
What works best is to provide a system where workers can easily report any issues they observe and get back to work in a matter of minutes. Again, this is possible by using the ticketing feature in a CMMS. With a few clicks, they can submit a simple work request from an enabled mobile phone or computer to notify the maintenance team (if the company has one) or the admin department about any issue.
#5) Consider hiring maintenance staff
For organizations that own few physical assets and run small to medium scale operations, optimizing their environment can usually be handled by a few capable staff members. However, for businesses with much larger buildings and operations, trying to improve and manage your physical space with staff members that are not specifically trained in this area leaves too much room for errors and oversights. There’s also the additional problem of your staff being constantly distracted by the demands of office upkeep.
Every time you call someone away from their desk to attend to something else in the office, there’s a chance that they will be distracted. Let’s briefly look at the implications of distractions at work. According to a study by the association for psychological science, even the smallest distractions can impact productivity in the following ways:
- distractions can cause employees to take longer to complete a task.
- not only does the distraction extend the time taken to complete a task, but it can decrease the quality of the employee’s finished work.
- a distracted employee has their attention directed elsewhere; they need to abruptly pause what they are doing and then later shift their attention back to the previous task at hand. It usually takes at least a few minutes to settle down and focus back to where they were initially. Do this several times a day and you end up with a seriously distracted individual.
The fact is, you can usually get the most out of staff when they are specifically trained and experienced in handling the work assigned to them. Maintenance and other kinds of office improvements are typical examples of tasks that are best handled by experienced hands.
Such larger offices can get better results by making trained personnel accountable for office maintenance. Hiring even a small but well-trained and efficient maintenance team will quickly deliver immediate improvements, help to save time and costs, and free up your staff to focus on their core duties.
#6) Protect the mental health of employees
While improving the environment you currently have is vital for boosting productivity, don’t focus too much on just the physical environment and layout. No matter how comfortable the workspace is, productivity will still plummet if the mental state and health of staff are overlooked. Happy workers feel more valued and they are more dedicated, creative, and innovative than unhappy ones. Also, they are far more likely to remain with your company long-term.
That said, take steps to cultivate an atmosphere that stimulates positivity and engagement in your workplace by incorporating the following wherever possible:
- Prevent undue fatigue, stress, and long-term health problems by using ergonomic furniture.
- Consider flexible work schedules for a better work/life balance
- There’s hardly anything more frustrating than working with inadequate or substandard work tools. Therefore, empower workers with the necessary tools, equipment, software, and training required to meet their work goals.
- Provide creative breakout areas to help keep workers energetic and charged up.
#7) Make this everyone’s job
From the C- suite all the way to new employees and interns, make this objective of creating a productive office environment everyone’s job. Get everyone involved. And, as you go along, make it easy for all staff to give their feedback as well.
This doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Simple things like regularly asking staff for details of any challenges they are facing in their workspaces will do. In addition, encourage them to discuss some improvements that they would like to see. The information they provide will help management to focus and apply available resources in the best way possible rather than wasting time and money investing in improvements that don’t add value to anyone.
Another easy way to keep the environment top of mind for all staff and solicit their involvement is to place bold and friendly signs and notices at strategic points around the office reminding them about cleanliness, neatness, and care for machines and equipment.
Regardless of the kind of work that we do, physical comfort is an important need. Organizations will do well to prioritize the comfort of their employees thereby enabling them to optimally accomplish whatever tasks they have at hand. The good news is that even the smallest of changes when applied consistently can yield significant results in creating an office environment that inspires workers to put in their best. For one thing, taking steps like the ones discussed above to actively create a productive office environment shows staff that their wellbeing matters. Furthermore, your staff is likely to spend most of their time at work anyway. That’s another reason why taking proactive steps to keep them comfortable is crucial.
After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, Erin built the custom social media analysis division for the world’s largest PR measurement firm working directly with clients like Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, and GLOCK. From there, Erin landed in computer vision startups working on products like facial recognition for loss prevention and breath detection for medically-fragile newborns. As VP of Marketing for Limble CMMS, Erin and her team get to share with maintenance teams around the world the good news that there is an easier way to manage–and get credit for–their amazing work.