Do you sometimes struggle to concentrate at work? Do tasks often take you longer to complete than you’d like? The fact is, many of us could benefit from boosting our productivity in the workplace - and the way we design our offices could help us do precisely this.
If you’re looking for ways to become more efficient, keep reading. Here are six design hacks that could pave the way to greater productivity.
- Use office screens
Too much noise is a major gripe in many open plan offices, and it’s no secret that the distractions caused by loud conversations, whirring printers and so on can make it harder for people to focus on their work. Excessive noise could also have a harmful effect on morale and even health. According to a Cornell University study, workers in a noisy office experienced significantly higher stress levels than those in a quieter environment and made 40 per cent fewer attempts to solve an unsolvable puzzle. The researchers noted that, as well as impacting on stress and task motivation, noise exposure can contribute to health issues including heart disease and musculoskeletal problems.
One simple but effective way to lower noise levels in your workspace is to fit office screens. You can choose between desk or floor screens, or use a combination of both. These accessories help to absorb sound, provide employees with greater privacy and reduce distractions.
- Fit daylight bulbs
Instinctively, you might know that being exposed to more daylight helps you to focus and improves your mood. This is backed up by science too. Research carried out by a team at Northwestern University revealed that office workers who benefit from greater light exposure are more alert. These people also experience better and longer sleep, are more physically active and report a better quality of life compared to workers with less exposure to light.
This means it’s important to maximise daylight in offices. You could do this by positioning desks near windows where possible, using transparent rather than opaque partitions in your workplace and using mirrors to bounce natural light around. You can also invest in daylight bulbs. These illuminations create the effect of daylight and can be an excellent alternative to traditional office lights.
- Use scents to stimulate the brain
Smell probably isn’t one of the first things you think about when you’re considering office design, but many experts believe that the fragrances that pervade workspaces can have a significant effect on productivity. It’s now widely accepted that certain scents can be used to stimulate the brain. For example, a study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that people exposed to peppermint oil experienced enhanced processing speeds and improved memory. This oil also raised alertness while promoting a sense of calm. Meanwhile, research conducted at Wheeling Jesuit University discovered that drivers who inhaled peppermint scent were less fatigued, anxious and frustrated, and they stayed alert after driving for prolonged periods.
So, why not introduce a minty aroma to your workstation with the help of some peppermint oil? You might be surprised by the positive effects it has.
- Ensure you have enough storage
Everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to how tidy they keep their desks. Some like absolute order and zero clutter, while others prefer a more haphazard approach. However, there is evidence that too much mess can hinder productivity. A team at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that when an environment is cluttered, people’s ability to focus is restricted. This is because the brain’s ability to process information in these conditions is limited.
So, if efficiency is your priority, it could be time to tidy your work area. There are plenty of convenient storage solutions on offer. For example, if you’re limited in terms of space, you can opt for handy under-desk pedestals. These compact units tuck neatly out of the way, and they ensure your office essentials are within easy reach. By making sure you have the right pedestals, cupboards, filing cabinets, bookshelves and so on, you should find it easy to keep clutter under control.
- Pick yourself a pot plant
Plants can bring a touch of colour and personality to your workplace, and give it a more natural look and feel. A little greenery is also known to help employees feel more relaxed and happy, and it can be good news for productivity. By improving air quality, plants can even enhance worker health.
When you’re selecting pot plants for your workspace, make sure you go for ones that are easy to care for and that are suited to growing in an office environment. A good example is the peace lily. With their broad, deep green leaves and attractive white flowers, these plants can make a welcome addition to virtually any work area. They don’t need a lot of light either. Another popular choice is the Sansevieria. With its spiky leaves, it can bring a much needed visual stimulus to an office.
- Embrace stress-busting toys
Stress toys might seem frivolous (and in modern, minimalist offices they can be frowned upon for spoiling the clean lines of workstations), but in fact these objects could play an important role in helping people to focus. Research carried out at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University suggested that, by providing the brain with a quick break from time to time, stress busting toys can help workers to stay focussed.
So, from stress balls to fidget spinners, it could be time to introduce some toys to your work environment.
Following these design tips doesn’t have to take much time, effort or money, and it may have a hugely positive impact on productivity levels in your office.