In light of the heat wave which is being experienced across Kent and London offices we were interested to read about research carried out by Dell Technologies which looked into the top issues, related to office design, which have an impact on UK office productivity. Dell were primarily looking at how technology or the lack thereof impacts office workers and their research did in fact show that out-dated technology can hold businesses back – however they also found that the number one reason given for poor office productivity was unsuitable office temperatures followed by noisy environments, unnecessary meetings, a lack of quiet spaces to work, clutter, unstable or weak Wi-Fi, poor lighting and lack of training, which all played a role in reducing productivity.
We know from past research and surveys that office design is important in staff health and well-being and subsequently in office productivity. The Dell research takes this further and suggests that failure to address office design and technology issues will have far reaching consequences. In fact 73% of office workers in the survey feel so strongly about their work environment that they would consider leaving their employment if their employer did not improve their workplace and provide a suitable environment that allows them to be creative and productive – which in turn enables them to enjoy coming to work.
The 10 Reasons Cited For Poor Productivity Can Be Tackled Through Office Design
Dell found the following reasons (with percentages) can reduce workplace productivity if not tackled:
- Unsuitable office temperature (35%)
- Colleagues talking too loudly (34%)
- Unnecessary meetings (32%)
- Old or out-dated technology (29%)
- Lack of quiet working areas (28%)
- Messy desks (24%)
- Poor Wi-Fi (22%)
- Poor lighting (22%)
- Lack of training (20%)
- Poorly integrated technology (19%)
In this article we’ll look at a few of the reasons highlighted in the Dell research (including how old or outdated technology and poorly integrated technology) can impact office productivity. It’s interesting to note that of the top 10 reasons cited many of them can be tackled through good office design and office refurbishment.
Unsuitable Office Temperature
Dell’s finding that 35% of workers find unsuitable office temperatures are the cause of issues is also backed by findings in a Fellowes survey of 1000 office workers which found that 37% of office workers were distracted (and therefore less productive) when their office space was uncomfortably hot.
In another survey carried out for Andrews Air Conditioning four out of five people were unhappy with their office temperature and of these 50% complained that their workplace was too hot. The survey also found that approximately 2% of office hours in the UK were wasted due to temperature issues which is the equivalent of or £13 billion a year.
Clearly making sure that your office temperature can be controlled is important for the comfort of your staff and to ensure that productivity levels do not suffer. It’s important to note that this isn’t about having the same temperature everywhere – in this case one size doesn’t fit all – everyone is different and some people prefer cooler rooms, others like to work in warmer areas; and men and women have different temperature needs too! A study by Plos One “Battle for the thermostat: Gender and the effect of temperature on cognitive performance” found that “Thermostat settings geared for men’s comfort — typically cooler temperatures — may actually disadvantage women by lowering their ability to perform some tasks”. Instead different rooms and areas may benefit from different temperatures depending on a number of factors e.g. the function they are meant for, the numbers of people occupying a space and exposure to the sun.
How Office Design Can Combat Office Temperature
When it comes to your Kent or London office design air conditioning or HVAC may not be something that tops your list but given the fact that in many surveys, staff say it’s their number one bug bear when it comes to their working environment it should be more of a priority.
Even if you have no plans for a refurbishment you should still investigate whether HVAC is something you should invest in or upgrade.
The installation of air conditioning comes with more benefits than being able to control and regulate the office temperature. Read our article to find out some of the “hidden” or overlooked benefits of air conditioning.
As well as air conditioning any office design should consider what colour should be used within the office space. Don’t forget colour can have a big impact on making a space feel warm or cold e.g. red, orange and yellow are all warm colours whereas blue, purple and green are known as cool colours. So when it comes to decorating bear in mind how colour may affect the perception of temperature in a room!
Noisy Office Space
Some office areas can be noisy, especially open plan areas where there are no barriers to combat noise.
Trying to concentrate on the work in hand can prove to be very difficult when noise levels are high. This is borne out by work by Berry and Banbury who showed that a noisy office can reduce the accuracy of work carried out by as much as 67% and research by Oomen, Knowles and Zhao which reported that disturbing noise in an open plan office environment can ultimately lead to decreased productivity, increased stress levels, lower employee morale, increased absenteeism and overall increased staff turnover!
In fact we know that stress in the workplace can lead to ill-health. Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2014/15, showed that 440,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at a level they believed was making them ill. In 2017/2018 (PDF) that number went up to 595,000 workers leading to 15.4 million working days lost. This equates to an average of 25.8 days lost per case. In 2017/18 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 57% of all working days lost due to ill health.
Research carried out by the Danish National Research Centre for Working Environment and others have shown that it is therefore vital to get office acoustics right at planning stage when undertaking an office refurbishment.
How Office Design Can Combat Noise
Fortunately there are office design solutions which can help to cut down the noise level within an office. These solutions include:
- A suspended or drop ceiling which will absorb noise, help to reduce reverberation and prevent sound from travelling to adjacent areas
- Acoustic screens, dividers, partition walls and panels can be used to act as noise barriers which will absorb unwanted noise and prevent it from passing through rooms
- Double-glazed panels can provide light and block noise
- Using carpet on floors, rather than tiles can reduce ‘foot-fall’ noise.
Lack of Quiet Working Areas
Following on from the issue of a noisy workplace, a lack of quiet working areas can also be problematic. Many people prefer to work in a place that is quiet and allows them to concentrate on their work. When this isn’t possible i.e. there are no quiet workspaces available productivity can plummet.
A study commissioned by Plantronics to better understand how to help create environments where employees thrive found that “noise and distraction impact wellness, productivity and even financial performance.” It went onto say “63 percent of employees say they lack quiet space for focused work, which has a negative effect on their productivity, satisfaction and well-being.” However “96 percent of executives see employee productivity as critical to their financial performance, yet just 40 percent understand the link between noise, distraction and productivity.”
Given the impact a lack of quiet space can have on employee well-being and productivity companies should factor in quiet areas when designing their office refurbishments.
How Office Design Can Provide Quiet Areas for Work or Downtime
Where quiet is important e.g. work that may need intense concentration or privacy then individual or designated quiet multi-person office space may be the solution.
Break out areas have also become a good way to provide staff with places they can “get away” from the hustle and bustle of a busy office.
A well designed break out area can fulfil a variety of functions from being the ideal place to do quiet work to allowing staff to have some downtime and relax to being a place to meet and greet other staff or visitors.
When space is at a premium a breakout area can be as simple as a small corner of the office with a comfy chair and a table or it can be a larger partitioned area or separate workspace which can accommodate a number of tables and chairs.
Out of Date, Poorly Integrated Technology and Poor Wi-Fi
In today’s workplace, technology plays a vital role. Twenty to thirty years ago a computer was a rare sight, now workspace desktops, laptops and tablets and mobiles are the norm. Just under 10 years ago, the cost of technology represented around 5% of a company’s design and refurbishment budget. Today technology can be as much as a quarter of the total refurbishment cost. As time goes by we rely more and more on technology and technological advancements to make us more efficient, to keep us in touch, to work remotely and to be more environmentally friendly (through a reduction in paperwork).
Without technology businesses would now struggle to thrive or survive. Therefore when it comes to an office refurbishment, technology should be an important part of the office design, not an afterthought.
How Office Design Can Incorporate Technology
There are many ways that a business can incorporate technology into their office space.
From reliable high speed, stable Wi-Fi to allow work on the move to integrated power, charging and internet points to assist staff in working in different locations, to the use of smart whiteboards and audio visual systems, technology can help to improve workers efficiency and productivity.
Many companies are also upgrading their security systems to use fingerprint authentication or key cards to prevent unauthorised access to their building or offices. Key cards are also being used to identify and log into printers and photocopiers to eliminate the chance of sensitive data being leaked, as well as to keep track of the amount of printer and photocopying volume being carried out on a day to day basis.
Research has shown that messy and cluttered workspaces can affect our stress levels causing us to lose focus and leaving us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. To our brains clutter says there is still work to do and can distract us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on.
Messy desks can make a workplace feel untidy and crowded. Clutter can also make an office feel small and may well be a safety hazard.
Mess and clutter can be a sign that there are not enough storage areas and filing solutions available for staff to store paperwork and equipment.
How Office Design Can Clear the Clutter
There are many office storage solutions available which can allow a business to de-clutter, become more organised and efficient and open up and showcase their office space. Some of the many examples of good storage solutions include filing cabinets and cupboards, lockers, bookcases, racks and storage walls which provide an excellent way of utilising office space from floor to ceiling.
If there are no off-the-shelf solutions that meet your needs bespoke furniture can be custom made to order.
Poor office lighting can cause a variety of health issues.
A lack of light can cause eye strain and headaches as the eyes are forced to work much harder in order to see. However poor lighting isn’t just about a lack of lighting it can also be about harsh or over powering lighting causing eye strain and has been known to trigger migraines.
Mental Health Research UK (MHRUK) estimates that 1 million working hours are lost each year due to seasonal affective (SAD), or winter depression which can result due to a lack of natural light leading to persistent low mood, irritability and feelings of lethargy and depression.
As light is the key component to our vision, and researchers estimate that 80-85% of our perception, learning and cognition is through vision it’s easy to understand why it’s important to have the right light in our workplaces.
How Office Design Can Bring Light into the Workplace
When it comes to office refurbishment it’s vital that as much natural light as possible is incorporated into the design of new office space. Where natural light isn’t available skylights could be considered. Where skylights are not possible recessed LED lighting could be used.
Glass partitioning can also be incorporated into office design to allow light to flow through an office space. Where there is limited natural light, your office could be designed to allow break out areas to take maximum advantage of natural light so that as many staff as possible can take advantage of what natural light is available.
Find Out More
To find out more about how JBH Refurbishments can work with you to provide a Kent or London office design which helps you to overcome the top 10 workplace productivity killers contact us via our contact form or call 0333 207 0339.