We often focus on personality problems and interpersonal difficulties at work, and sometimes invent creative reasons for why productivity is low, or lower than we think it should be.

But maybe there are basic physical flaws that are impacting the way we work –for example a more ergonomic chair and desk relationship.

I was delighted to be shown an infographic, reproduced in parts here with permission by the creators, Digital Third Coast that examines some common productivity killers and explores the research and strategies for change.

1. Reduce noise pollution

Open plan offices have been popular for a long time. Some of us thrive on the bustle and chat of a big groovy space, but sooner or later, sensory overload gets the better of concentration, and Get Smarts cone of silence doesn’t seem such a far-fetched idea.

The research suggests there is a 66% decline in reading and writing efficiency when people are distracted by others’ conversations.

Do we have bring back compartmentalised offices, and keep the funky spaces for boardroom conversation, client presentations, staff meals and breakout discussion areas? Maybe a simple strategy of provideing high quality (comfy cushioned) headphones for everyone would help those intense work efforts.

2. Increase work efficiency with multiple screens

I really notice how much I love coming back to the office to work after travelling – and it’s largely because of the use of two screens for my work. It stemmed from media and production work but I have now read there’s a 50% decline in productivity among office workers with just one computer display. Could it really make that much of a difference? Imagine if we can boost productivity by giving everyone an extra computer monitor. It definitely works for me!

3. Add natural light to improve task focus

Offices with harsh fluorescent overhead lights, situated under mobile antennae and no indoor plants are a likely source of body and mood toxins.  Natural light can boost task focus. See about replacing lights with sun and fresh air (where possible), a lightwell (if you can) and all the plants that will be happy to thrive indoors. This is an important consideration when moving people around and especially when locating new premises. People respond well to natural light.

4. Improve the temperature to suit the people working

Office temperature should not just be determined by the building manager or maintenance person! People are always complaining about the freezing temperatures in their office.  The ideal indoor temperature for humans is between 18 – 22C.  Any more or less and you’re uncomfortable (and not concentrating). Peak productivity cannot be achieved when it is TOO COLD! … or too hot. Discuss and act! Establish best temperature and positions for everyone, all genders.

5. Get organised because clutter costs!

A messy space doesn’t imply a genius is at work. Some disorganisation is understandable and not everyone likes an empty desk, but there’s a tipping point suggesting you are stressed and possibly overwhelmed by what you’re doing.  The research suggests an average of $4800 per year per employee is lost due to employees looking for things. Time for a declutter and detox.  You’ll feel better and more on top of things.

Let’s remove the physical barriers then we can work on the interpersonal issues!


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