There is a growing awareness of the environment that you and your co-workers exist within and its impact on creativity, culture, happiness, well-being and ultimately workplace performance.
Moving away from stereotypical workplace perceptions, let’s look at how office furniture can enhance and impact for the better. Is it time for a change?
Ergonomic furniture is specifically designed to reduce employee discomfort, as it effectively fits the workplace to the user’s needs. When employees have the comfort and support that they need, they have fewer variable to distract them from carrying out their tasks.
The area of ergonomics will focus on chairs, sofas and desks, ensuring the right hight and comfort through designs such as back support, cushioning, adjustable elements and arm rests.
The right type of chair can contribute to improving an employees’ posture and circulation.
It is important for employees to have the space to safely move from area to area within the office, whether working from different workstations or just for exercise.
Mobility will come down to the size of the office, but crucially, how that space is utilized.
Office furniture can play an important role, particularly if it is easily moveable or contains storage options, freeing up or transforming workspace through innovation.
Being mobile can help employees to improve circulation, while there is an argument that says switching between sitting down and working standing up, can improve concentration levels too. At iQ Workspace, we have a number of options for sit stand furniture, which can deliver whatever your employees need for mobility.
As already eluded to, storage can free-up space for other functions, such as employee break-out areas or informal meeting space.
Storage can also help with the organisation of documents, creating systems and processes which are more efficient.
The benefits of natural light
Having an office that lets natural light in, can save energy cost, while enhancing well-being, by reducing eyestrain and headaches. A Harvard study indicated that natural light can help improve employee performance by up to 70%.
Window coverings and the layout of the office, which of course depends on the furniture in situ, can play a vital role in ensuring natural light reaches the areas most in need.
Sound is another area that can have a positive or negative impact on employee emotions and productivity.
Traditional open-plan offices often allow noise to transmit, which according to Julian Treasure, of The Sound Agency, causes problems: “There is plenty of research that shows that the most destructive sound of all is other people’s conversations.
“We have bandwidth for roughly 1.6 human conversations. So if you’re hearing somebody’s conversation, then that’s taking up 1 of your 1.6. Even if you don’t want to listen to it, you can’t stop it: You have no earlids. And that means you’ve just .6 left to listen to your own inner voice.”
To put that into perspective, the World Health Organisation has estimated that the annual cost to Europe from excessive noise levels is £30 billion.
“We have bandwidth for roughly 1.6 human conversations. So if you’re hearing somebody’s conversation, then that’s taking up 1 of your 1.6. Even if you don’t want to listen to it, you can’t stop it: You have no earlids.”
– Julian Treasure
Data shows that employees situated in open plan offices take 70% more sick days than home workers.
Strategically-placed office furniture can dramatically reduce the amount of noise, enhancing the office ambience and allowing workers to concentrate in a less-stressful environment.
In addition, there is a growing market for acoustically-designed furniture, to further reduce noise levels.
The significance of smell in the workplace is a relatively new and evolving phenomenon.
In a study entitled ‘Decoding the workplace experience: how the working environment shapes views, behaviours and performance’, leading experts from Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) and the Centre for Evidence-Based Management (CEBMa), investigated how scents can significantly affect productivity in the office.
It found that scents can directly impact cognitive performance and workplace productivity whilst also influencing physical, emotional and mental health issues.
The report even suggested a list of specific scents and how they can enhance workplace performance:
- Rosemary is associated with clearer thinking, improved memory and energised mind.
- Jasmine reduces tension and nerves.
- Citrus scents have a number of benefits: grapefruit can help fight mental exhaustion, lemon is uplifting, orange eases stress and bergamot oil can be used to treat depression.
- Lavender is another anxiety and stress reliever.
- Peppermint helps with concentration and stimulating the mind and cinnamon has similar qualities.
Perhaps the final aspect we look at, is closely aligned to scent. The virtues of office plants is becoming more and more accepted for its positive impact on workers.
An article in The Guardian, reported on a study by Dr Chris Knight from Exeter University and his fellow psychologists, who determined over a decade, that employees were 15% more productive when “lean” workplaces were occupied with a few houseplants.
They concluded that employees who actively engage with their surroundings are better workers.
Referring to a call centre, the introduction of plants, specifically one plant per square metre, saw employees improve their memory and improve performance in other basic tests.
“What was important was that everybody could see a plant from their desk. If you are working in an environment where there’s something to get you psychologically engaged you are happier and you work better,” Knight said.
The employee engagement is a phenomenon known as biophilia and can be defined as the human tendency to seek connections to nature.
What was important was that everybody could see a plant from their desk. If you are working in an environment where there’s something to get you psychologically engaged you are happier and you work better.”
Dr Chris Knight
So utilising plants either as furniture or by creating space for plans, is another important factor in enhanced employee performance.
As you can see, there is an enormous amount more to think about when attempting to optimise employee productivity within the modern office.
Furniture plays a critical role and aligns to our senses and psychology both physically and subliminally.
Research is only now starting to unwrap these golden nuggets of insight that can transform the way we work.
Is it time to re-evaluate your office furniture? Why not contact iQ Workspace to discuss how we can help create an office makeover that delivers results.
Office Plants image from PlantPlan