Colour your employees calm - and 5 other office hacks to boost productivity

11 September 2015

2 min read

Can design and environment influence how you work? Or better yet, how well you work?

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A Harvard Business Review study says yes.

Over the course of weeks, researchers studied behaviour at a leading pharmaceuticals company and found that more "chance encounters" between workers led to higher sales. A larger cafeteria that encouraged employees to eat together had the biggest impact, helping boost revenue by 20%.

Within a workspace, open conference rooms can increase workers' energy, while private nooks are more likely to encourage the on-the-fly collaboration that leads to great innovation, noted Miguel McKelvey, cofounder and chief creative officer of coworking office space WeWork, in a recent Fast Company interview.

As a small business, you're unlikely to have the resources to redesign your entire office in pursuit of productivity. Fortunately, you don't need to. We scoured the web for the best ideas and found six adjustments you can implement now without huge cost or effort.

  1. Ditch the desks and use tables instead

    Why wait for chance encounters in order to capture the benefits of collaboration? Limit the number of office desks and make the up the difference with long tables that include embedded power outlets. Encourage workers to plug in as needed.

  2. Fewer, and more open coffee stations

    Most workers need at least a couple of cups of coffee during the day. Make them walk for the caffeine boost but then pay off the journey by designing the space to model a real cafe. Include comfy chairs and round tables to foster conversation.

  3. Turn up the furnace

    Tempting as it may be to cut the energy bill by keeping the heater down during cold UK winters, a 2004 Cornell University study found that raising the average office temperature from 20 degrees to 25 degrees celsius led to 44% fewer typing errors and 150% jump in typing output. Make sure your office temperature is optimised before you spend on other potential productivity boosters.

    Make your furniture flexible
  4. Make your furniture flexible

    If space is limited, look for low-cost ways to make it multi-functional. From tables that can be easily dismantled and set aside to modular storage that can be transformed into shelves, chairs and more, use smart design to let people redefine their own workspace – bringing creativity into the fabric of your office.

  5. Use colour strategically

    According to UK researcher Angela Wright, using the right colours in the right combinations and intensity in your office can help improve the productivity of your employees. For example, blue is said to stimulate the mind, yellow to inspire creativity, green encourages calmness while red quickens the pulse to inspire us to physical action such as increased courage or aggressiveness. Today, this "Colour Affects" systems, as Wright calls it, is used in offices around the globe.

  6. Provide plenty of loose chairs and power strips

    Make it easy for workers to change space whenever the mood suits. Not only will they enjoy the health benefits of moving around more, they'll also get the mental and social benefit of shifting perspective, which can lead to innovation.

What are you doing to create a more productive office environment? Leave a comment to let us know what's working for you, and what isn't.

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