Why Comfort in the Office can Increase Daily Productivity

Aaron McCardell, Thursday 07 August 2014 | Reading time: unknown
Why Comfort in the Office can Increase Daily Productivity In my experience, I've found office productivity to be a relatively straightforward thing to measure. My team does x. How long did it take to do x? How many times can we do x in a day? Great. Now we know. Let's try to keep our daily completions of x at around that level.

As a project manager, it can be easy to stop at this point, but we are sometimes asked to increase productivity in the office. The first attempts at this are fairly typical from company to company and usually involve positive or negative reinforcement. Either give bonuses for increased productivity or in some way punish the workers for not doing x fast enough (bad workers!).

What I always urge people to do first, though, is think of what they can do to boost productivity. Sure, you're not doing the actual work, but how can you help your employees want to work better, faster, or more efficiently? One question I hear members of management ask when it comes to employee motivation is, "Are my employees comfortable in the workplace?" Of course, office comfort can be mental or physical, but for the purposes of this piece, we'll focus on the physical.

Before you start doling out bonuses or carrying a yardstick around the office, consider these basic matters of office comfort that can do the work for you.

Sweating is as Bad as Freezing

For some reason, this is an often overlooked matter in an office. Maybe it's because so many companies rent their office space and either want to keep costs down or feel it's too difficult to keep everyone comfortable, but if an office approaches an uncomfortable temperature, the first thing employees will do is find a way to get comfortable. Sometimes, that means going outside to cool off. Sometimes, it means they'll huddle up under a blanket (and when that happens, they're likely talking to their co-workers about how cold it is rather than being productive... and who can blame them?). Either way, they're not working because you've decided to place something (cost, convenience, whatever) ahead of the comfort of your employees.

Why is Fluorescent Lighting Still a Thing?

How many studies do we have to read about the damage fluorescent lighting does to our eyes before we start demanding better for ourselves? If your office is lit primarily by fluorescent lights, consider changing it. I know it's difficult, especially with large common areas, but remember, in those large common areas are a bunch of people working for you, and every minute they spend in harsh lighting is another minute of their eyes tiring. When it's crunch time, you want your employees to be able to focus, and by keeping them in terrible lighting, you're only ensuring that at the most literal level, they can't. Office productivity goes up if your people can see. Who knew? At your most noble, you're saving their eyes because it's the right thing to do. At your most selfish, better eyes lead to better work. Either way, check out your options.

Ergonomics: It's More than a Great Scrabble Word

I'm amazed how often I hear complaints about the amount of time employees spend away from their desks from people sitting in $400 chairs. When I ask why I think that might be, these same people get up out of their $400 chairs, walk around their $700 desks, and start talking about laziness or entitlement. The fact is that people like to be comfortable (I don't think I'm breaking new ground here). If they're comfortable at their desks, they'll spend more time there, thereby increasing productivity. If you give them a decent bit of furniture to sit on and a useful desk to sit behind, these added expenses pay for themselves in increased office productivity. Show your employees you care about their comfort and they'll find ways to repay you tenfold.

Productivity in the office is about more than running a tight ship. There's a place for that, of course, which is why such a thing as project management software exists, but at the end of the day, if you want to run a tight ship, you have to consider the comfort of your sailors.

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