Industrial Engineering

4 Workspace Updates to Improve Productivity

https://www.iise.org/iemagazine/2019-03/html/groshek/groshek.html

ISE Magazine March 2019 Volume: 51 Number: 3

By Nicole Groshek

A new Kelton Global study finds that physical workspaces have an impact on employee happiness and productivity. There are a number of factors that play a major role in either helping or hurting employees’ performance and well-being during their workday.

When it comes to productivity, most managers want their employees to work at 100 percent capacity but that’s easier said than done. Unfortunately, 92 percent of American workers say that when their physical workspace isn’t up to par, their psychological well-being and focus at the office can suffer. According to the study (https://link.iise.org/workplacestudy), the physical workspace affects the mental workspace and office managers need to take notice.

How is it possible to keep employees engaged and on-task during their time in the office? The solution may lie in the design of employee workstations and common areas.

Manage workspace messiness

How neat employees keep their desks is entirely up to them, right? That’s true to some extent, but clutter can lead to dis-organization and that ultimately affects other team members. According to the workplace happiness study, 62 percent of workers surveyed report having a cluttered workstation would make them unhappy at work.

Employees who are negatively affected by clutter tend to be those who are already tidy, so providing tools to keep desks and cubicles orderly is a first step.

Consider the filing and storage needs of employees in different departments and provide organizational tools accordingly. For example, an employee working in accounting may require a lot of physical file cabinet space to keep documents in order rather than creating a large pile on the desk. Be open and honest with employees by asking them on an annual basis if they need any additional tools to help them keep workspaces under control.

Not only do employees need tools to help keep clutter at bay, they need the time. Although some may make the effort to clean up their space every day, many ignore this due to a perceived lack of time. Encourage employees to take the time on a monthly or quarterly basis to recharge and reorganize their workspaces. Reminding employees that tidying up their space is an acceptable use of company time will ensure the task gets done and inevitably lead to happier, better organized and more productive employees.

Use ergonomic furniture for worker comfort

More than half of survey respondents stated that an uncomfortable work-space would cause unhappiness. Office managers should take steps to ensure employee comfort. Be sure to speak with each employee individually or send a survey to determine the best methods for increasing workstation comfort and support.

Among the causes of discomfort, an uncomfortable office chair was named as a major culprit. To combat this, outfit all employee workstations with ergonomic office chairs that can be tailored to meet individual needs. The beauty of an ergonomic chair is that a single seating option comes with a multitude of adjustments, meaning all workstations can be outfitted with one type of seat to make nearly every employee comfortable.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the height of office chairs should be tall enough so knees are about level with hips, with feet flat on the ground. Computer and keyboard should be within easy reach. Wrists should be kept straight and hands at or slightly below the level of elbows.

In addition to providing quality chairs, managers should also consider offering active workstations. Adjustable height desks allow workers to alternate between sitting and standing from the comfort of one space without needing to stop work. To complement this type of environment, you may also want to consider offering an active seating option such as a ball chair or leaning stool. These options can help an employee maintain better focus and stay healthier. It’s a win-win for both employees and employers.

Encourage workers to also take five- to 10-minute breaks about every half-hour or so to get up and walk around away from their desks. This break will actually increase productivity and in-crease blood flow throughout the body.

Update employee technology

Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said having to work with outdated technology is another element of workplace unhappiness that would negatively impact their mental state at the office. Can one blame them? Navigating through outdated software, working with a mal-functioning computer and coping with an unorganized computer file system can be a recipe for disaster.

Believe it or not, workers spend an average of 6.5 hours a day in front of a computer screen. Fortunately, there is plenty managers can do to help them work more efficiently with the right tools.

Among technology complaints, 1 in 4 said having multiple computer monitors is critical to workplace happiness. Employees often juggle multiple tasks at once so having two monitors to further enlarge their laptop screen or have a different file open on each screen can make a huge difference. Multiple monitors and laptops are commonly requested and can drastically improve productivity.

Other factors that affect unhappiness in the workplace include old software, mouse devices and keyboards that don’t function properly and other technological issues. Managers should take steps to ensure employees have up-to-date technology, allowing them to work effectively.

Provide a mix of private and collaborative workspaces

Forty-three percent of employed Americans say not having a private area to work would negatively impact their mental wellness at the office. Additionally, 1 in 4 respondents find value in flexible work environments that allow them to work away from their desks when needed. Providing a blend of both open concept and closed-off private areas is the ideal way to provide employees with the room they need.

Try incorporating common areas throughout the office specifically designated for collaborative work. Soft seating in the middle of an otherwise unused open area can be used for casual touchdown meetings. This type of seating area is typically not reserved as is a traditional conference room, making it an ideal option for co-workers to sit and chat in private without having to wait for a room to be available.

Workers also need private areas where they can retreat. An unused private office can be converted into a quiet work area where employees can go for focused work. Providing alternative work areas such as these could give employees a choice to work where they want, dependent on the task that they working on.

When it comes to increasing employee productivity and overall performance, the most important thing is to listen. Happy employees make productive employees, and employees can’t be happy if they don’t work in an environment that’s designed for success. Reach out to each individual on a regular basis to ensure every employee has the tools and technology they need to succeed. Increased productivity and employee morale are sure to follow.