When the topic of workplace productivity comes up, it’s tempting to look to trendy, eyeball-catching solutions. After all, installing a fire pole or a ping pong table in your office is all but guaranteed to get your company noticed.
But if you’re looking to make changes to your office that will actually enhance your team’s productivity over the long term, you might be better off sticking to a few research-backed, tried-and-true solutions.
5 strategies to increase workplace productivity
The following strategies might not be as hip as supplying team members with in-office scooters, but they are effective. Here are five changes your office should adopt for a more productive 2019.
- Go natural.
- Make sleep a priority.
- Encourage down time.
- Embrace ergonomics.
- Offer different types of work spaces.
If you want to enhance workplace productivity, follow these five steps to guarantee your team’s productivity over the long term.
1. Go natural
Research consistently upholds the idea that spending time outdoors is good for our health and productivity. And the same is true when we bring the outdoors in. Adding natural light and greenery (in the form of plants and flowers) to an office are both proven ways to enhance workplace productivity.
When it comes to sunlight, one study found that workers with windows in the workplace demonstrated greater productivity at work.
Even if your office doesn’t have a ton of windows, you can enjoy some small gains by encouraging team members to leave the curtains open and rearrange the workspace so people are able to work as close to the windows as possible. You might also consider investing in light bulbs that are meant to simulate natural light.
When it comes to greenery, a 2014 study found simply adding plants to an office can boost productivity by as much as 15 percent and may even improve team members’ overall quality of life.
Meanwhile, flowers have been shown to enhance creativity and innovation. Living plants also help filter the air, which may keep employees healthier (thereby reducing absenteeism).
Empty surfaces are great spaces to add a touch of green throughout the office. Opt for plants that are easy to care for and make sure someone takes responsibility for watering — dead plants are not nearly as uplifting as living ones.
2. Make sleep a priority (but seriously)
At this point, the internet is saturated with articles about the importance of sleep. While companies may pay lip service to this idea, it’s important to consider whether your office is actually making it possible for team members to tend to this essential need.
Research suggests sleep-deprived workers exhibit noticeable declines in their productivity, so it’s critical to give your employees a chance to obtain enough sleep each night. (The standard recommendation is seven to eight hours.)
This could involve:
- Encouraging employees to end their work days with enough time left in their days to eat dinner, run errands, and spend time with their families before a healthy bedtime.
- Instituting a “no sending or checking work emails in the evening” policy.
- Allowing for flexible scheduling so employees can craft schedules around their preferred sleep times.
- Offering financial support so employees can invest in high-quality mattresses and other gear to maximize their chances of getting plenty of shut-eye.
- De-stigmatizing nap breaks during the work day.
3. Encourage down time
It’s not enough for employees to labor all day and then finally take a break in the evening.
Research suggests that people who take frequent breaks throughout the workday tend to be more productive. While the ideal break schedule may depend on an individual’s circumstances, there’s some evidence that working for 52 minutes and then taking a 17-minute break (then repeating the cycle) might be ideal.
Team members need time to step away from their computers.
It gives them a chance to clear their minds, mull over ideas, and reset before diving into a new task. It also enhances employees’ physical wellbeing by giving their bodies and eyes a break from being in the same position and looking at a screen.
Make regular breaks a cultural priority with the following tips:
- Educate the whole team about the importance of breaks and let them know that breaks are encouraged, not stigmatized.
- Allow employees to head outside for walk breaks.
- Encourage employees to stop working during their lunch breaks and to step away from their desks while eating their meals.
- Offer a short, daily stretch or yoga session for any employees who’d like to take part.
4. Embrace ergonomics
Ergonomics may not seem like a priority when you’ve got sales goals to meet and investors to satisfy, but in fact it can play a major role in office productivity.
Low-quality chairs (and the poor posture brought on by them) can contribute to discomfort, pain, headaches, breathing issues and fatigue — all of which can inhibit productivity and eventually lead to absenteeism. For this reason alone, it’s worth investing in office chairs that are designed with comfort, adjustability and ergonomics in mind.
While you’re at it, consider implementing these additional ergonomic tips:
- Make sure computer monitors are elevated so employees don’t need to crane their necks downward to look at their screens. This can significantly reduce neck pain and shoulder tension.
- Encourage team members to ensure their computer monitors are approximately 24 to 36 inches away from their eyes at all times. This will cut down on computer eye strain.
- If your team members work on laptops, invest in external keyboards to reduce wrist and forearm strain.
5. Offer different types of work spaces
Over the past decade or so, open office spaces have swept the country.
While they were initially lauded as beacons of enhanced productivity, the reality of open office spaces has looked a little different. Many studies have found that open office spaces can actually decrease productivity, primarily because they make it difficult for team members to focus.
Meanwhile, other research has found a balance of open, collaborative spaces and private spaces seems to offer the ideal mix for innovation, productivity and profitability.
Because every team member has unique preferences when it comes to optimizing their productivity, it’s important to provide a variety of spaces that can accommodate different needs. To that end, do your best to offer a mixture of private and collaborative work spaces.
By implementing these research-backed strategies, you’re all but guaranteed to experience improvements in your team’s performance. Just as good? These office tweaks are also likely to improve morale for a happier, more productive team.