What would you say if someone asked you what your priorities in your office are? Chances are, you’d say something along the lines of, “Increase productivity to boost profits.” That only brings up a new question. How do you increase productivity in the office?
While some business owners will strive toward longer hours and stricter guidelines, that’s not how you achieve productivity in the office. Productivity starts with a comfortable environment. That’s what will keep your employees happier and more productive.
So instead of focusing on “increasing productivity,” take a look at the bigger picture. When you make comfort a priority in the office, you’ll see productivity follow.
Can Comfort Really Boost Productivity?
Studies show that yes, comfort does impact productivity in the workplace. Ergoweb.com reports on a study conducted by Cornell University. This month-long study placed computer workers in an environment that allowed researchers to adjust the temperature over the course of the month. They compared performance of workers at both a comfortable 77 degrees and a chilly 68 degrees.
What they found was that in the uncomfortable temperatures, workers’ typing mistakes increased by 74 percent while their overall output dropped by 46 percent. That’s almost half the productivity level all thanks to an uncomfortable environment!
How Do You Promote Office Comfort?
There are two categories of comfort you can promote in the office: emotional and physical. Emotional comfort involves feeling safe and accepted in your working environment. However, here we will focus on the physical aspects of comfort and how you can promote that type of comfort in the workplace.
Set Your Thermostat at a Comfortable Temperature
It’s a common practice to set a company’s thermostat just bordering comfort to save on heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer. But have you ever thought about how much that small savings could cost you in productivity?
As mentioned, studies have shown that uncomfortable temperatures can impact productivity. Instead of focusing on saving a few bucks in utilities, prioritize comfortable temperatures in your home office. Research shows that the optimal comfortable temperature is 72 degrees, so aim for that level year-round.
Adopt Ergonomic Office Equipment
Ergonomics is the study of efficiency in a person’s environment. Ergonomic office equipment, then, is designed to boost efficiency in the workplace, typically by aiming to suit a particular employee’s needs. An ergonomic chair, for instance, is designed to support the lower back and adjust to the proper height for each employee. An ergonomic keyboard is designed to complement the natural curve of one’s hands to minimize muscle strain.
To construct a truly ergonomic environment, each workspace must be customized for the individual. For example, a certain fixed-height desk might be the right size for a 6-foot-tall man, but it’s unlikely to accommodate a 5-foot-tall woman in the same way. Consider the needs of the employee on an individual level when purchasing office equipment, and remember that most equipment is not one-size-fits-all.
Provide Height-Adjustable Workstations
In a study conducted by the same researchers of the abovementioned temperature study, researchers found that employees with access to a height-adjustable workstation reported less discomfort throughout the day. According to researchers, 80 percent of workers want a workstation that allows them to adjust between sitting and standing throughout the day. Not only was discomfort 20 percent lower in workers with an adjustable station compared to those in a fixed working environment, but they reported higher levels of productivity.
Adjustability shouldn’t only be in the chairs and desks, either. Consider purchasing adjustable-height monitors that allow employees to change how tall the monitor sits and how far it is from their face. If adjusted properly, this will decrease neck and back issues as well as reduce eye strain.
Offer and Encourage Adequate Breaks
Today in the United States, only 1 in 5 people actually take a lunch break. As NPR says, that’s bad for business. Furthermore, CNN reports that skipping out on your break can impact your productivity and lead to burnout. Though this could be attributed to an emotional state of mind, taking periodic breaks can also have a positive effect on the body.
As research shows, being sedentary for too long can be detrimental to your physical state. However, once you stand up and begin moving around, your body is already activating muscular and cellular processes. This can result in stronger muscles and organs, as well as take some pressure off your back and help relax your neck and shoulders.
That’s why taking a break from the desk is so important. When you get up and walk around after sitting for extended periods, discomfort decreases. Encourage employees to take their lunch break and even go on a walk during it if they’d like. Even when it isn’t break time, encourage them to stand up and stretch every now and then, and even take a short walk to talk to their coworkers in-person instead of via email.
This also gives employees a short break from the computer to reduce eye strain.
Adjust Your Dress Code if Necessary
Another aspect of physical comfort comes in the clothing you wear. For instance, women who are required to wear heels during the work day may find that their feet ache by the end of the day. Employees who are allowed to dress more casually tend to have greater freedom in choosing comfortable clothing.
If your place of business requires a business formal dress code, talk with employees about what types of comfortable clothing options are appropriate and available to them. Some places of business that require uniforms might also consider rethinking the uniforms to promote an optimum level of comfort, focusing on tailored fits and comfortable footwear.
It’s important to note that comfort is subjective. While one employee might find a certain ergonomic chair comfortable, another might experience back problems with that same chair, which means you may have to purchase separate models for different employees. Likewise, one employee might find a 77-degree room comfortable while others may find it too hot.
Employee input and compromises may be necessary to create a comfortable environment everyone can agree upon, but when you find that sweet spot, you’ll also notice happier employees and increased productivity.
What are you thinking of changing in your home office to increase comfort?