By James Dyer
A small business can often feel almost like a family, with the lesser number of employees creating a highly personal workspace. With the average worker spending a third of their life (or 90,000 hours!) at work in their lifetime, it’s no wonder that a pleasant working environment is a key part of keeping employees happy and focused.
For small business owners, improving your office environment can create a productive working atmosphere where positive relationships between co-workers can blossom.
What’s more, a company’s working environment is one of the key aspects in developing a positive company culture, which helps with both the retention and recruitment of employees.
These tips below will help you enhance your office design, improve your working environment and create a productive workforce.
Create a Mix of Private and Open Working Areas
The layout of an office is extremely important to the wellbeing and productivity of your workforce.
If the office layout is cramped and claustrophobic, employees will feel more stressed potentially affecting their physical and mental wellbeing. Despite this, the previously ‘on-trend’ idea of the benefits of open office design have also been disproved, with open-plan offices found to reduce productivity by marginalizing workers who prefer a quieter, more private workspace.
So, how do you accommodate both the social, collaborative workers and the quiet, private ones? One answer to this is to create a quiet workspace where employees can focus without distractions, but also includes ‘office break out areas’ to allow for collaboration between employees. These spaces should be informal areas, like a lounge area, where employees can work on projects together or even just take a break from their screens.
Think carefully about the layout of your office, creating a mix of private and social spaces to improve staff morale.
Let There Be Light
The amount and quality of light in your office environment helps employees to feel alert and motivated throughout the day.
If possible, situate employees around natural light sources such as large windows, which can greatly improve their mood and energy levels. If the building doesn’t allow for this, consider ‘blue-tinted’ lighting which increases serotonin levels – the chemical that makes us feel awake and energetic.
For small businesses, creating a bright working environment with natural or blue-tinted lighting can aid a more productive and harmonious working environment.
Avoid a ‘Sick Building’
Improving your office environment can also help to improve the health and wellbeing of your workforce. ‘Sick building’ syndrome is a medical condition where inhabitants feel ill or unwell simply because they spend time in a poorly designed building. Complaints such as headaches, fatigue, nausea and eye and throat irritation can be caused by certain hazardous building materials, poor ventilation and an imbalanced room temperature.
Although many causes of a ‘sick building’ are outside most small business owners’ control, you can work on improving the ventilation and ambient temperature of your office. If you notice employees getting ill with similar symptoms, consider altering the office layout to make sure certain employees aren’t over-exposed to recycled air or overly hot or cold air temperature.
Another way to combat a sick building is by improving the air circulation in your office, whether from an open door or air conditioner, which helps to reduce the spread of illnesses between employees.
By improving the air circulation and providing a balanced ambient temperature you can avoid sick building syndrome, which in turn will reduce the amount of sick leave taken by your workforce.
Keep Employees Hydrated
Providing cool, clean drinking water via a water cooler is a great incentive for employees to stay hydrated throughout the working day. Dehydration has been found to negatively influence stress levels, concentration and even memory function, so regular trips to the water cooler will help to improve concentration levels amongst your workforce.
A less-conventional benefit of having a water cooler is the social aspect it can bring, with the popular phrase ‘water cooler moment’ to describe a shared, common experience discussed around the water cooler. This means that water coolers not only incentivise employees to stay hydrated, but also to relax and socialise with fellow co-workers.
For small business owners, there a whole host of ways you can improve your office to make your workforce happier and more product, from altering the layout to avoid ‘sick building syndrome’ to ensuring sure workers have a bright and airy workspace.
Employees will always appreciate the effort an employer makes to improve their office environment – particularly within the intimate setting of a small business. Even if it’s simple changes such as adding a water cooler or creating an office break out area, subtle tweaks can make all the difference when it comes to improving staff morale and productivity.