Increasingly companies are seeing the workplace as a strategic tool for productivity and collaboration by introducing workplace innovations that make offices much more appealing places to work.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, said: “What makes an office environment great is different for every company. But these are six innovations we are seeing in offices around the world and increasingly in South Africa.”

Overlap zones
“A way to encourage spontaneous collaboration among employees is designing space to allow for “overlap zones,” which make it more likely employees will run into each other,” says Andrews.
Research from the University of Michigan showed that when scientists worked in a space where they ran into one another they were more likely to collaborate. The data suggests that creating opportunities for unplanned interactions among employees both inside and outside the organisation actually improves performance.

Samsung built an office that includes large outdoor areas sandwiched between floors that encourages employees to hang out and mingle in shared spaces. Online clothing store Zappos purposefully planned to build a smaller office for their U.S. headquarters to increase the number of probable interactions per hour per acre.

Configurable desks
Said Andrews: “We are seeing greater demand for desks there fit together like puzzle pieces. They can be moved, reworked and reattached as employees see fit. It matches their immediate needs such as working solo for a collaborative project.”

Music rooms
“One way to boost employee productivity at the office is to foster a positive company culture,” Andrews notes.

It’s not prevalent in South Africa yet but overseas music rooms are proving popular, as long they are soundproofed! At LinkedIn’s headquarters in Mountain View, California employees can play in a room that’s stocked with high-end music equipment like drums, guitars, keyboards, AV equipment, microphone stands, and even stage lighting.

The program improves the company’s marketability to potential employees, especially musicians, both as a specific perk and means to demonstrate the company is not like all the others.

A monitor revolution
We could be entering a new age for office monitors in 2018. “The past year has seen many offices upgrade their screens to 32-inch or even bigger screens and the latest models feature almost border-less edges or even a curved display.”
Besides the significant productivity advantages, companies are also beginning to deeply consider how their technology impacts on the look and feel of the workplace.
Monitors and other technology have become more prominent, as more workplaces opt for sit-stand desks, the back of the screen and the cables are more visible. These latest screens create a sleeker, modern look across the workplace, in turn, organisations are also choosing support tools with aesthetic appeal and that hide cables.

A superdesk
Designing an office space around the “open office” concept is one thing. But what about creating a shared desk for your company’s entire staff?
To represent their collaborative approach to work, marketing company the Barbarian Group built a 400 square meter desk that weaves through their office headquarters in New York City, which can sit up to 170 people at once.

“Of course this might note be practical for employees who want to work in a quieter spaces but it does create a fun sense of oneness,” says Andrews.

Plants and greenery
It isn’t too hard to believe that spending time around nature and sunlight and fragrant greenery is good for you. But now, there’s scientific research to back that claim. A 2014 study in Journal of Experimental Psychology by Nieuwenhuis et al showed that adding plants and greenery in an office can help increase employee productivity by 15%.

“Office landscaping helps the workplace become a more enjoyable, comfortable and profitable place to be,” Andrews adds.

For example, Google’s office in Tel Aviv, Israel has an indoor orange grove that turns an otherwise normal, collaborative space into a relaxing area that makes you feel like you’re sitting outside on a park bench.

Great offices are not merely well decorated and thoughtfully designed, but also have a profound effect on workers’ productivity and their sense of well-being.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office says, “It’s one of the main reasons why there’s a trend the world over for companies to make over their boring and old furniture by including stylish, pleasing chairs, couches and desks which is transforming utilitarian, drab spaces.”

Here’s how great office space can enhance productivity in the work place:

Boring furniture will make you lazy – and bored
Being surrounded with boring furniture, individuals oftentimes lose interest in work and lead to a drop in productivity “Even if we don’t think dull workplaces impact productivity they do by creating a subconscious listlessness that is associate with dreary surroundings,” Andrews says.

Vibrant colours bring enthusiasm
Lots of offices are choosing furniture and fittings in bright colours. “Bright colours assist in lifting a person’s mood. It’s a good way to alleviate stress, as well as increase productivity,” says Andrews.

Standing desks making your healthier
Several studies have discovered a link between the amount of time an individual spends sitting and her or his odds of developing diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

For example, one 2010 Australian study, discovered that for every additional hour participants spent sitting on a daily basis, their overall threat of dying within the study period (7 years) increased by 11%.

Says Andrews: ”A 2012 study discovered that if the average person in America decreased her or his sitting time to 3 hours a day, life expectancy would increase by 2 years.”

Keep it clean, and orderly
“Cleanliness and order are very important factors for an office that feels good to work in,” noted Andrews. “ A disorganised office deprives workers of the enthusiasm and send a message than sloppiness is OK.”

A clean and orderly office, helps to keep workers comfortable and productive.

Fixed spaces for handy items
A good idea is to always keep things in their place, as well as keeping them handy.

“Often workers put off their work because they need to get up and go to an additional place for finishing the task or wonder around trying to find something like a stapler. Keeping items handy won’t just speed work up, but it also makes you more productive,” says Andrews.

Where possible let the daylight in
“We all know the uncomfortable feeling of being stuck in a windowless room under fluorescent lights during daylight hours,” says Andrews. “Lack of natural light has profoundly negative effect on people’s health and therefor productivity.”

In a study entitled Impact of Workplace Daylight Exposure on Sleep, Physical Activity, and Quality of Life researchers at the Neuroscience program at Northwestern University in Chicago, reported that the detrimental impact of working in a windowless environment is a universal phenomenon.

It concluded that there is a strong relationship between workplace daylight exposure and office workers’ sleep, activity and quality of life.

“Employees who did not have windows reported reduced scores than their counterparts upon life quality measures associated with vitality and physical problems. Also, they had poorer outcomes within measures of overall sleep efficiency, sleep quality, daytime dysfunction, as well as sleep disturbances,” Andrews added.

Furniture installed by Inspiration Office is created in South Africa by AngelShack. It is German designed but locally produced to international standards. All furniture is VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds such as adhesives and dyes) free, made from sustainable material and coated with anti-microbial finishing.

AngelShack is one of the first companies in the world to apply this anti-germ technology.

Open plan layouts are the Marmite of the office

Open plan offices are like Marmite: you either love them or hate them. And they continue to strongly divide opinion in the workplace.

But one thing is for sure, they are likely to be around for a while as businesses struggle to balance the tension between the need for immediate collaboration and the demand for individual, quiet spaces where people can concentrate.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says that his company continues to install both open plan offices and private office spaces in equal measure despite the growing global pushback against open plan.

“It’s a horse for courses situation. There is no cut and dried winner in the debate. It really does depend on whether open plan is best for your employees and the way they work rather than a philosophical debate.”

Andrews does acknowledge however that there is a growing body of recent evidence that shows open plan makes it harder to work.

A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology that studied 40 000 workers in 300 US office buildings concluded that enclosed private offices outperformed open-plan layouts in most aspects of Indoor Environmental Quality – namely in acoustics, privacy and proxemics (how uncomfortable people feel when forced into close proximity to other people) issues.

Said Andrews: “Benefits of enhanced ‘ease of interaction’ were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy resulting from open-plan office configuration.”

Another study by SP Banbury and DC Berry showed that loud noise has become one of the greatest irritants at work. It revealed that 99% of employees reported that their concentration was impaired by various types of office noise, especially telephones left ringing at vacant desks and people talking in the background. A further study showed that 68% of those surveyed become frustrated when sounds levels rise above normal conversation level.

Even employees at Apple, which just spent $5 billion and six years building a centralised campus around the open-plan office concept, are reportedly dissatisfied. Some are said to have insisted on their own space outside of the new spaceship style building.

“But, just like a taste for Marmite, many businesses have a definite passion for the lack of walls or other physical barriers in open plan offices.

“Open spaces makes it easier for employees to interact with each other on a regular basis. The constant intermingling not only generates a sense of camaraderie, it also enhances the flow of information and teamwork.”

Andrews noted than another benefit which may not immediately spring to mind is that of budget.

“Having an open plan office can save the company money, as costs are reduced on construction, utilities and office equipment. It is more efficient to have everyone in one room in terms of utility bills and office supplies. It also provides the best flexibility to accommodate extra capacity for when the company grows as desks can easily be reconfigured.

“It really comes to how your company works best,” Andrews concluded.

Don’t just sit there!

Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.

And there’s a direct relationship between time spent sitting and your risk of early mortality of any cause.

Richard Andrews, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy, said that most workers have gotten so used to the notion of sitting all day, they don’t even think about the damage it could be doing to their bodies.

“Our analysis shows that people sit in a car or bus to get to work and once there, sit at their desks, sit in meeting rooms and even sit in the canteen for lunch. And what compounds the problem these days, is the culture of answering emails after work hours.

“This can easily addd an extra hour of sitting to the day. This means workers will typically sit for between 10 and 12 hours a day without even realising it. And it can have a devastating impact on peoples’ health – even if they exercise frequently.”

One study compared adults who spent less than two hours a day in front of a with those who logged more than four hours a day of screen time.

Those with greater screen time had a nearly 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause and about a 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack.

Andrews added that if there was ever doubt of the effects of sitting, most people ‘shrink’ during the day. The reason lies in the vertebral column, specifically in the inner part of the vertebral disc. The discs in the spine are composed of a gelatin-like material which provides cushioning and protection to the spine.

“It’s your body’s shock absorber. And with the pounding your vertebrae take during the day with by sitting, it needs time to rest, rejuvenate and elongate again. Sitting for hours literally causes us to shrink a little during the work day.

“There is however a simple way to combat the negative effects of sitting on our health, “ Andrews noted.

“People in offices should take a movement break every 30 minutes. No matter how much you exercise, you still need to do this. Research shows that people who sat for less than 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of early death.”

Andrews said that while people know they need to move more, guidelines on what the entails should be more specific and should be put up in every office and encouraged by management.

“For every 30 consecutive minutes of sitting, stand up and move/walk for five minutes at brisk pace to reduce the health risks from sitting.”

Study results indicate that those who frequently sat in stretches less than 30 minutes had a 55% lower risk of death compared to people who usually sat for more than 30 minutes at a stretch.

People who frequently sat for more than 90 minutes at a stretch had a nearly two-fold greater risk of death than those who almost always sat for less than 90 minutes at a stretch, he said.

Andrews added that an added benefit of moving every 30 minutes was to encourage older workers to move.

“As we age we tend naturally to become more sedentary, but this increases the risk of poor health. Everyone will benefit from moving every 30 minutes. It’s important people just make it a habit.”

Sitting is bad for your health

Spending those long hours sitting in the same fixed posture at a desk is doing your body no good and may even be causing long term damage; but the growing adoption of height adjustable desks in South Africa may prove the antidote.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says people weren’t designed to sit at a desk all day.

“But we’re seeing growing demand for sit stand desks from our clients in South Africa. Giving workers the choice of adjusting the height of a desk can make a big difference helping people to work more healthily and productively as well as relieving back and joint discomfort.”

Importance of movement and variation

“While a good quality office chair offers great comfort and support, it can only go so far. As a result it’s always a good idea to get up out of your chair regularly through the day,” noted Andrews.

In reality what often happens is we get involved with our work and end up sitting far too long until the aches and pains set in and force us to move.

The beauty of sit and stand working is it allows you to work in a wide variety of postures that can’t be achieved while sitting.

“It helps to make for a far more natural way of working. And by taking note of our body’s signals of fatigue and stress all that’s needed is a change of work position. This wide variation of movement keeps the body more active and healthy,” says Andrews.

Benefits to office workers

Variable height desk workers often report significant benefits when changing from straight sitting all day to this more flexible working method:

• It keeps them in better shape physically
• It helps to control weight as additional activity burns off excess calories
• An ability to focus and concentrate more effectively
• A greater level of energy
• Feeling more engaged in their work
• A much wider variety of positions, many of which can’t be achieved with a chair
• Less aches and pains through being more active

A recent study shows the long-term harm of prolonged sitting. The American Cancer Society undertook a study of 120 000 people with no prior history of serious illness.

It discovered mortality rates rose by 37% for women and 18% for men who worked more than 6 hours a day sitting, when compared to those sitting for less than 3 hours a day.

How to fight back against sitting

“There is a fundamental difference between the pressures on the body when sitting and standing,” says Andrews. “When standing, your body’s weight is spread through the hips, knees and ankles. Prolonged sitting inflicted undue pressure on the back’s discs. A standing position reduces pressure on your back and allows weight to be carried via the legs.”

A study carried out by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Laboratory at Cornell University found computer users noticed a marked decrease in musculoskeletal pain after only 4 to 6 weeks of working at a height adjustable desk.

Dr. Delgado, a Cape Town based Chiropractor, has advised that we also need to establish a healthy work pattern. As a rule of thumb, every 30 minutes of work should be spent as follows:

· 20 minutes sitting
· 8 minutes standing
· 2 minutes moving / stretching

Says Andrews: “Although this way of working is radically different to a conventional office desk, it’s clear there is little problem to adapting to it for new users. In fact as the work position is so easy to alter it makes it very simple to pace yourself and adapt to the new way of working at a rate that suits you. However people should always have the choice and work in the way that is most comfortable for them.”

Co-working spaces, the trend that is shaking up the traditional workplace model the world over, is set to cause a dramatic change in how and where people work in South Africa.

Linda Trim, director of FutureSpace – a joint venture between Investec Property and workplace specialists Giant Leap that offers high end co-working space, says that in 2016, there were approximately 11 000 co-working locations around the world.

“But this figure is expected to more than double to 26 000 by 2020. By comparison, there are approximately 24 000 Starbucks locations worldwide. Taking a cue from the popular reference to the coffee giant’s location strategy, that means there may soon be a co-working space on every corner.”

Trim noted that co-working spaces were increasingly popular with strong demand for FutureSpace’s offices.

“We already have steady 80% occupancy rate only three months after launching.”

FutureSpace plans to open further offices around South Africa, a possibly overseas in 2018 such is the demand.

The biggest shift Trim expects to see in the coming years is that co-workspace will become a key component of many companies’ workplace and real estate strategies — for occupiers and building owners alike.

“Flexible workspace is not just for millennial freelancers or tech startups anymore. Large, multinational companies are increasingly taking on space at flexible workspace operators or integrating shared working spaces into their own environments,” she noted.

For example, Microsoft recently shifted 70% of their sales staff in New York City to flexible workspace. Large employers already make up the fastest growing market for shared workspace provider and many businesses’ preferences are moving toward short-term real estate contracts with flexible provisions.

Companies like IBM and Microsoft have begun to outsource the design, building and management of some of their workspaces to third parties.

Says Trim: “In the same way we now purchase many technologies as services rather than as software, the future of ‘space as a service’ looks bright.

“This model provides companies with a way to access space in an on-demand fashion, drawing on the knowledge of outside experts in a way that frees them to focus on their own core businesses.”

Building owners are also finding opportunities to revitalise underused spaces by transforming them into the type of shared work areas that are increasingly in demand.

Already, many occupiers won’t consider a building without available flexible space. To remain relevant, commercial office buildings will need to create spaces that attract people to connect and collaborate — both within the office and outside of it.

In South Africa, as in the rest of the world, companies will soon need to think more about accessing office space than owning or leasing it.

This paradigm shift will require an evaluation of “core” and “flexible” space needs.

Core space is the real estate a company must rent or own over the long term for the business to function. Flexible space is the real estate that can be deployed quickly without long-term commitment, adjusting in near “real time” based on needs.

“By categorising space needs this way, businesses can make better decisions about how to execute a real estate strategy that minimises cost and maximises opportunities,” Trim adds.

One of the best examples of large companies adopting the flexible co-working workspace approach in Asia is HSBC’s recent contract for 400 desks in WeWork’s Tower 535 in Hong Kong.

“It created the right environment for their staff, working in the same location as other like-minded teams, including Hong Kong’s fin techs and other startups,” says Trim.

By making flexible workspace an integral part of an organisation’s workplace strategy, companies can not only provide employees with a valuable opportunity for choice and connectivity, but they can realise meaningful benefits thanks to flexibility.

In balancing core and flexible space needs, companies can reduce financial risks related to long-term space needs and be nimble in making changes as needed.

“Building owners can benefit from transforming underutilised spaces into shared working areas, which in turn can help attract and retain tenants, “ Trim concludes.

What time do you power down your laptop at night? Look at the plug next to your bed. How many devices are plugged in there? Your answers to these questions have probably revealed you’re at the office more than you’re actually in it, tucking into some bite-sized admin with breakfast at the corner café or catching a quick IM meeting from the back seat of an Uber. Your staff are no doubt doing the same. So, how do you restore work-life balance to encourage happy, healthy and motivated employees when everyone’s overflowing inbox is tagging along home with them? Make them feel at home with a lifestyle-focused work environment.

At the moment, a fundamental shift away from hierarchically designed offices, toward more inclusive, collaborative spaces, is taking place. One major reason for this is the growing platoon of Millennials in the modern workforce. These super-social and adept multi-taskers like open plan coffee-shop style environments, tech bedecked meeting hubs, acoustic pods, and even working from treadmills or barber shop chairs is not an unusual request these days. As a result, more and more companies are starting to mimic the trendy offices of the Googles and Facebooks of the world. But what if that doesn’t align with your brand… and your older staff just can’t comprehend the idea of morning meetings in an indoor treehouse?

Embracing lifestyle-focused work spaces doesn’t mean your office needs to look like a children’s playground. It’s simply about making the office more flexible to your employee and business needs. That means the first step to an ideal workspace is to understand your company requirements, culture and staff. Traders are bound to their workstations, attorneys require privacy, creatives like space to throw ideas around in, and so all the lifestyle-focused workspaces for these kinds of employees will need to be different to efficiently support the way in which they operate. However, there are a few minor changes that we’ve noticed can help to streamline any and every office, improving efficiency while giving it a homey air.

Comfortable soft seating hubs, intimate task lighting, quiet areas, private spaces, warm colour palettes, and the smell of brewing coffee are just a few minor tweaks that make most staff feel at home in the office. But another major stand-out benefit and consideration of lifestyle-focused work spaces is scalability. Lifestyle focused spaces allow for expansion without the costs of a new workstation for each new staff member. Instead, employees may move around an environment, without desk ownership, working from a pod or quiet room, canteen or bar-height collaboration table.

A lifestyle focused workspace that looks and feels more welcoming and comfortable will put your staff at ease, make their work-lives more meaningful and encourage them to invest more passion and drive into a company that is investing in their in-office experience and overall work-life balance. After all, home is where the heart is. Start your journey to a more lifestyle-focused workspace today and get more heart from your staff, as well as a responsive and agile office that changes and grows around you, instead of the other way around.

By Robyn Gray, Associate Director for Tétris South Africa

Top five SA workplace trends in 2017

South African offices are changing rapidly as the workplace continues to shift from a utilitarian place where you earn your money from 9 to 5 to a much more people=friendly, welcoming space where we will spend more than 50% of our time during our working lives.

Emma Leith, Interior Decorator at workplace specialists Giant Leap, shares her top five workplace trends in South Africa for 2017:

The end of fixed workspace layouts

Creating multifunctional community space as well as a diverse selection of areas is becoming increasingly important in order to accommodate constantly changing needs; allowing people to have greater fluidity, mobility and flexibility in the workspace.

“This trend can be seen in the form of modular furniture, work benches and sit-stand desks. Communal areas are becoming an important part of the workplace where people can get together for an informal meeting, to simply enjoy a cup of coffee alone or with a college or to collaborate across teams,” says Leith.

The Modern Office: A Home Away From Home

The office fit out is becoming increasingly geared towards creating a more lived in and homey feel.

“It’s a home away from home type of scenario. This is created by providing cosy, welcoming lounges, communal canteens, and comfy break out areas.”

Leith says that this ultimately provides for a better working environment allowing for greater employee satisfaction. This trend interlinks with point one above as people now have the option to work in more relaxed, comfortable environments.

“Residential furniture is another element that is being used more and more to create that warm, never-want-to-leave-the-office feeling,” Leith added.

Private Areas

The growing trend towards the open plan office generates the need for private pods/ areas, as the open plan concept does not always provide for the best working environment.

“Private pods are needed whether it be to have a quiet phone call, meeting or place to work with no distractions.  Therefore a combination of spaces is essential in the modern workplace,” notes Leith.

Private areas can be innovatively designed telephone booths, sound proof quiet rooms and sound proof space dividers. Increasingly, various new “pods” are being installed in the workplace in South Africa.

“Secluded pods allow office workers to meditate, smash things or scream and will be commonplace in two years time,”  Leith notes.

Themed Meeting Rooms To Portray Company Identity

Themed meeting rooms are becoming important areas for companies to portray their identity, values and what they do.

This may be in the form of wallpaper, graphics, furniture, lighting, or colour.

This allows for each meeting room to take on a certain personality, ultimately making them more interesting and inviting spaces to be in, as well as emphasising the firm’s identity.

Play Space

Not just for trendy companies like Google any more or start ups burning through cash.

“Games such as pool and Ping-Pong are also being brought into the communal areas which allow colleagues to interact with other on a more relaxed level as well as help them to relax.

“This trend is growing in South Africa is an effective way to break the office stress cycle and rest the brain, “ Leith concluded.

Offices would be much better places to work if they were more like cars.

“New car models are often embedded with technologies that make driving easier, safer and more fun.

“Sensors tell drivers if there is a truck in their blind spot or if they are about to back into another car when parking. Some cars allow drivers to safely take their hands off the wheel. Increasingly, more will be Wi-Fi enabled. The car doesn’t just provide transportation anymore—it actually helps people be better drivers,“ says Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office.

“So why can’t we embed technology in the office to help people feel, work and think better?

“A lot more people will drive a smart car to go to work in a dumb office. But this simply has to change and it will change.”

People used to think that technology would make offices obsolete—but the opposite is happening. Technology will be embedded in offices so it actually helps people work better and makes the workplace even more relevant.

“It will help people cope with the sense of overwhelm they often feel as work has intensified and the pace of change has accelerated. It will also help organisations design the kinds of spaces that workers love to work in versus have to work in.
Technology will be embedded in offices so it actually helps people work better and makes the workplace even more relevant.”

Work is fundamentally more complex than ever before. Workers who used to be assigned to a single project team now find themselves juggling multiple teams and tasks, constantly switching from one set of tasks to another, transitioning from one work mode to the next and orchestrating their way through a maze of meetings. The constant focus-shifting wastes time and drains energy.

When it comes to technology workers are already familiar with such mobile phones, laptops and Wi-Fi, this has had the impact of freeing employees who used to be tethered to their desks.

“It’s liberating—people have more choices about where and how to work.”

But it has also caused information overload as data has multiplied exponentially. And increasing globalisation brings new ideas and team members from all over the world.

“For example, video-conferencing makes collaboration across time zones easier. But it also means that you can’t just book one conference room for a meeting—now you need to book multiple spaces for your global team’s video call. So collaboration improved, but meeting scheduling got more complicated.

Think about a conference room that can alert you before the meeting ends, to make sure you wrap up what you need to accomplish before the next group stands impatiently outside the door, waiting for you to get moving.

“What if it could also recognise you and bring up notes from your last team meeting and adjust the lighting to the levels you prefer?

“And what if offices had a data stream that knew which rooms are always busy and which rooms no one seems to like. With this information, organisations can better understand what’s working and what’s isn’t.”

Just as technology in today’s cars is improving the driving experience, tomorrow’s office will harness the power of emerging technologies.

“It will allow people to more easily navigate the complexity of work as well as help organisations create better work experiences for individuals and teams” Andrews concluded.

Open plan: the suboptimal office?

Although the current work zeitgeist is for open plan offices, further thought is needed to keep different types of office workers happy throughout the workday.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says the open plan office has been around since the 1960s when it was first introduced in Germany to boost communication and de-emphasise status.

“As the idea took hold in North America in the decades that followed, employers switched from traditional offices with one or two people per room to large, open spaces.

“Right now, it is estimated that roughly two-thirds of U.S. workers spent their days in open-plan offices. South Africa has a similar experience.”

But as the layout became commonplace, problems emerged.

A 2002 study of Canadian oil-and-gas-company employees who moved from a traditional office to an open one found that on every aspect measured, from feelings about the work environment to co-worker relationships to self-reported performance, employees were significantly less satisfied in the open office.

One explanation for why this might be is that open offices prioritise communication and collaboration but sacrifice privacy.

“A reason for this is that ‘architectural privacy’ (the ability to close one’s door) went hand in hand with a sense of ‘psychological privacy’. And a healthy dose of psychological privacy correlates with greater job satisfaction and performance.” Trim noted.

With a lack of privacy comes noise—the talking, typing, and even chewing co-workers.
A 1998 study found that background noise, whether or not it included speech, impaired both memory and the ability to do mental arithmetic, while another study found that even music hindered performance. There’s also the question of lighting.

Says Trim: “Open offices tend to cluster cubicles away from windows, relying more on artificial light. Research has shown that bright, overhead light intensifies emotions, enhancing perceptions of aggression which could lead to a lack of focus during meetings if arguments get heated.”

Another under-appreciated twist is that different personality types respond differently to office conditions. For example, a study on background music found its negative effects to be much more pronounced for introverts than for extroverts.

“Even the office coffee machine could be hurting some employees. Although a moderate dose of caffeine was found to enhance long-term information retention and was ranked as the most important thing in the workplace by an Inspiration Office survey in 2016, caffeine has previously been shown to hinder introverts’ cognitive performance during the workday.”

A recent craze is the standing desk, inspired by the widely reported health risks of sitting all day. One study found that people who sat at least six hours a day had a higher risk of premature death than those who sat three hours or fewer—regardless of physical-activity level. But being on one’s feet presents its own health risks: standing for more than eight hours a day has been tied to back and foot pain.

So what’s a company to do?

“Give employees their own private offices, with plenty of sun, and turn off the overhead lights.

“Supply the introverts with noise-canceling headphones and decaf, but pump the extroverts full of caffeine and even let them listen to music now and then.

“And don’t let anyone sit too much—or stand too much.” Trim adds.

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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