The workplace environment has dramatically changed with the digital advancements of the modern era. Today, the workplace revolves around endless meetings, deadlines, heavy workloads, email management, and many more activities.
All such scenarios are triggering stress in the workplace.
As per the survey from the American Institute of Stress, 82% of employees have reported that they feel at least some stress at the workplace, while 6% reported extreme stress. In fact, there’s an enormous amount of data in the form of workplace stress statistics that show how challenging it is for employees to deal with work-induced stress.
However, the primary goal of smart organizations is to provide opportunities to boost employees’ performance. Consequently, provide opportunities for organizational growth, innovation, and improvement.
To do so, it’s important to understand the nature of human performance.
The simple explanation provided by organizational psychologists is that employees’ performance is a result of employees’:
- Ability – Whether the person can do the task.
- Motivation – A measure of whether the person wants to do the task.
- Opportunity – Whether the person has the chance, resources, or amenities to do the task.
These factors need to be fulfilled to expect high employee productivity, well-being, and satisfaction. And of course, to reduce work-induced stress.
10 Strategies to Increase Productivity & Wellbeing in the Workplace
The following ten workplace design adjustments can help in achieving this goal:
- Thermal comfort
- Access to daylight and nature
- Sensory variability
- Noise exposure
- Ergonomics and human factors
- Indoor air quality
- Freedom of choice
- Employee engagement
1) Thermal Comfort
The right combination of temperature, humidity, and airflow provides thermal comfort in the workplace.
- The ideal office temperature is 70.88 degrees Fahrenheit (21.6 degrees Celsius). However, for every 1.8° F (1° C) above or below the perfect temperature, the performance decreases by 1 or 2 percent.
- Furthermore, a slightly lower temperature can lead to higher accuracy and reduced sickness absence.
- Additionally, research studies have shown that personal control over conditions, especially temperature, increases employee productivity.
- Provide individual or zoned temperature controls in enclosed offices and rooms.
- Provide windows or window coverings that can be adjusted depending on the temperature, airflow, and sunlight.
2) Access to Daylight & Nature
There are many benefits of people spending time outside, in the nature. Therefore, it is important to design an environmentally conscious workplace and bring nature into the office.
- Working in an office with windows, having opportunities for contact with nature, and sensory variability greatly impact employees’ well-being.
- Daylight is a key factor in regulating the circadian rhythms of people. By disrupting these rhythms (when in office without daylight, for example), the employees’ stress levels rise.
- Studies show that when people have the chance to choose their preferred environment, most of them will choose open terrains, rooms/offices with a view, greenery, and a body of water nearby.
- Enable maximum daylight in the offices
- Utilize glass in the office whenever possible
- Choose an office with a better view and surrounding
- Provide outdoor space for employees. Stimulate employees to spend time outdoor, encourage them to go outside for breaks.
3) Sensory Variability
Both sensory change and variability are important factors to be considered in the workplace. The lack of various stimulations during the workday can affect employees’ concentration and stay alert.
- Sensory change and variability include window views, access to daylight, and surroundings made with sensory experience in mind. An environment that stimulates with color, sound, odor, or else.
- Moreover, working in a workplace that is not stimulating can harm employees’ focus and creativity, resulting in passivity, disinterest, and boredom.
- Utilize natural materials in the workplace, including wood and cork, and introduce plants in the office.
- Use patterns, textures, color, art, and other solutions to revitalize dull, neutral-colored workstations.
Even though different people prefer different colors, there are guides on choosing colors to produce the desired effect. For instance:
- Bright colors are linked to higher levels of focus and accuracy
- Blue is perceived as calming and promotes creativity
- Pink can minimize aggression, irritation, discouragement, or loneliness.
- Yellow helps with clear thinking and decision-making, while orange increases self-esteem.
- Utilize color to encourage certain feelings and behaviors
- Use different colors
- Maximize daylight and natural light by using brighter colors that can reflect light.
5) Noise exposure
Noise can be a great disruptor in the office. However, noise can be a booster for productivity, depending on the type of work. Still, being able to control and adjust noise individually is a key.
- The noise level is higher in open offices. Still, it can vary depending on the type of work, the environment, and the materials incorporated.
- Studies show that employees have fewer distractions when they control them.
- On the contrary, when doing repetitive, dull, and mundane tasks, employees can be stimulated by noise interruptions to keep going. The same does not apply to employees facing complex work.
- In a guide dedicated to acoustics in the workplace, the U.S. General Services Administration reported that office acoustics is a key contributor to work performance and well-being. Employees can achieve so-called acoustical comfort only when the workplace offers auditory support for interaction, concentrative work, and confidentiality.
- Integrate the three strategies recommended by workplace designers: noise absorptions, blocking, and covering.
- Divide noisy from quiet areas.
- Provide solutions to minimize or mask the noise.
- Set up noise control policies
Crowding decreases employee satisfaction. Environmental psychologists like Sally Augustin highlights how people perceive space:
- Brighter spaces, rooms with mirrors on the walls, and high ceilings are perceived as less crowded
- Men are statistically more prone to feeling crowded than women
- Working in a high building can contribute to feeling crowded. The exceptions are those in the upper stories. The reason? Better views and more access to daylight.
- Plants, pillars, and decorative elements can prevent people from feeling crowded.
- Organize the workplace with enough space between workstations and desks.
- Provide as many window views as possible to employees.
7) Ergonomics & Human Factors
Ergonomics stands for the people’s efficiency in their work environment. It can include ways to be more comfortable, flexible, and productive. The study of ergonomics also cares for safety in the workplace, product design, reduction of human errors, human capabilities, and more.
- According to a study by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, back pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, and other musculoskeletal diseases affect more people than any other health condition. The estimated cost of treatment for these conditions in 2004 was $849 billion, or 7.7 percent of the gross domestic product.
- In a survey of HOK among 3,600 employees from different industries, approximately 82% of the employees reported some physical issue at work. Neck, shoulder, and back pain were the most common complaints, typical for employees sitting for long periods. Those working in a standing position reported pain in the leg, foot, and hip. Survey results showed that the main culprit was poor ergonomics and prolonged sitting.
- Furthermore, the American Cancer Society report declares that sitting for more than six hours a day is the reason for an almost 20% higher death rate among workers who sat for most of their work time. This percent is even higher for women – 40%, to be exact. Moreover, the study finds that the damages of sedentary work cannot be reversed by dedicated exercise.
- Encourage movement during the workday and regular breaks off the desk.
- Provide adjustable furniture to meet employees’ needs.
- Provide technological solutions to enable and promote mobility and efficiency
- Design stairs to be accessible and encourage employees to use them
- Encourage movement in the workplace by creating office challenges and more.
8) Indoor Air Quality
By improving indoor air quality, employers improve and support employees’ health.
- Americans spend a lot of time indoors. Therefore, indoor air quality is important in many aspects of life. However, many pollutants can be in people’s homes, including household cleaning, central heating, and cooling systems, combustion, furnishings and building materials, and more.
- Invest in quality furniture, paint, and carpet particulates, and choose eco-labels.
- Provide maintenance and regular check-ups on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
- Ensure that the workplace is regularly cleaned with nontoxic cleaners.
- Add plants to help clean the air in the office.
9) Freedom of Choice
The best offices are those that let their employees thrive. This means, offer opportunities for learning, growth, collaboration, and more.
- Support employees through collaboration, focus work, learning, and socializing.
- Provide technical solutions to allow workers to focus and collaborate more effectively, both in-person and virtually.
10) Employee Engagement
Employee engagement and involvement are proved to provide greater employee satisfaction.
- Engaged workers are more profitable and more productive than other employees. Moreover, they stay longer and contribute to the organization with innovative ideas.
- Provide opportunities to foster employee engagement by creating spaces in which they can connect and collaborate
- Introduce awards, recognition programs, and other ways to support employee engagement.
5 Strategies towards Managing Stress in the Workplace
1) Wellness Program
A healthy employee means more productivity and business growth. A workplace should not be so business-oriented that it fails to consider the employees’ well-being as one of its top priorities. An employee wellness program plays a crucial role in the employees’ well-being and health. An employee wellness program can include:
An effective employee wellness program increases the productivity and morale of employees and reduces absenteeism and healthcare cost.
2) Practice Mindfulness
It is well-acknowledged that mindfulness-based therapy is highly effective in reducing stress, depression, and anxiety. Most of the employees are so absorbed in their daily work and personal lives that they don’t get time to carry out mindfulness activities. Therefore, if employers can encourage mindfulness meditation in the workplace, it can significantly reduce stress.
The HR department can introduce different mindfulness-based therapies and classes, such as yoga lessons, breathing exercises, and other similar activities, to make employees feel relaxed.
3) Workload Division
Most employers don’t know how much workload their employees are bearing. Sometimes, a single employee has to handle the workloads of 2-3 employees. Therefore, there is a need to have a check and balance system while assigning workloads. Some of the strategies you can adopt are:
Make employees part of the decision-making process when assigning tasks to them, and then mutually decide the deadlines and other details.
Practice rotational workload shifts such that employees get a mix of low-stress and high-stress work gradually.
Become more supportive in setting timeframes for projects and provide more supplies and resources employees need to deliver high-quality performance.
4) Adjustable Working Hours
The traditional working hours are usually 9 am to 5 pm, but the modern advanced era does not just stick to it. Nowadays, employees are assigned tasks and given specific deadlines to complete them. So, making them stick with the traditional working hours isn’t very fruitful.
Besides that, your employees are a mix of young professionals, women, parents, etc. If you develop a flexible working environment where the office is open all the time, and there are no specific work hours tracking, employees will find it less stressful and work in the hours they feel more productive.
Besides that, a flexible work environment also helps to attract top talent who likes the idea of work flexibility.
5) Liven Up Your Workspace
As employees work longer hours in offices, they often need different work environments to adjust or relax their minds and bodies. Suppose you can set up separate workspaces in your offices, such as zen and quiet space, or a fun room with gaming equipment in a creative lounge or nap rooms. These different workspaces are met to make employees feel refreshed and then make them get back to work.
It is common to see employees feeling stressed at the workplace, but the way they handle the stress is the primary concern. It is difficult for employees to manage stress on their own if they’re only focused on the workload, so employers must set up such strategies at the workplace.
Companies have various methods at their disposal that can negate the consequences of work-induced stress. For example, they can try the stress recovery effect behavior-based program created by Drs. Nick Hall and Dick Tibbits.
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