Many people invest a lot of time and money into their homes, creating spaces which are perfectly suited to their needs. We spend a lot of time in our homes, so it makes sense to ensure we are comfortable and happy in that space. We spend a lot of time at work too, yet we rarely have much control or even invest much time into the aesthetics of our work environment. Why is this?
Some organizations adopt a conservative approach to the design of their work environment. Managers create a ‘lean’ environment that reflects a uniform, corporate identity. However, a recent study conducted by the University of Exeter’s School of Psychology challenges this approach. The study suggests giving workers the freedom to personalize their offices because ‘employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier, they’re also up to 32% more productive’ (Science Daily, September, 2010). The study showed that when people feel uncomfortable in their environment they are less engaged, with both the space and what they can do with it. Give them some control of that and everything changes. People in the study reported being happier at work, identifying more with their employer and being more efficient in their work when given the chance to arrange their own work space.
The freedom to control the design and layout of a workspace didn’t require changing the colour of the walls: simply hanging some paintings or having a vase of flowers in the office ‘promoted happiness and helped people concentrate on the task at hand’ (Science Daily, September 2010). This doesn’t seem like a lot to ask of employers, particularly when there is something in it for them! Being aware of employees’ needs will help employers increase staff wellbeing and productivity at a minimal cost to the organisation. It’s a win, win outcome.