Home Lifestyle The Ergonomist: A Guide to Designing Office Spaces to Increase Productivity

The Ergonomist: A Guide to Designing Office Spaces to Increase Productivity

by Out and About Mag.

As a small business owner who constantly juggles between work and family pressure, I was truly challenged when resuming to outside meetings in clients offices which are often messy and cluttered. That made me reflect if returning employees would feel easy and comfortable adapting back into their workspace and routines.

It is vital for businesses to take care of their  employees the same way that they care for their customers. Businesses should look into different ways to create a wellness sanctuary within the confines of the office and discover an oasis for creativity and resourcefulness.

I remember back in my time when corporate offices rarely reflected a space of mindfulness and productivity; employees were squeezed into utilised corners, sometimes in basements or back of houses areas with no light and fresh air. Being affected myself of not having the power to get into my zone at my workspace, I like to draw your attention to the following tips on how to design a healthy wellness office that boost the productivity and brain work of your employees with little or no budget at all.

Use minimalistic design

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Albert Einstein. 

When designing or setting your office arena, allow spaces for improved mobility by introducing minimalistic design. Configure your office space without many distractions that will encourage your personnel to get up and move accomplishing tasks. That enhances the wellbeing by bringing more oxygen to the brain.

Researchers at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) found that the foot's impact during walking sends pressure waves through the arteries that significantly modify and can increase the supply of blood to the brain. Activities such as pedalling, walking and running may optimise the brain's function and process and overall sense of wellbeing during the exercise.

Another great tip to create a dynamic environment will be to invest in standing desks. That is a workplace wonder for your employees! If you don't have the budget for it, introduce one or two standing desks where your employees go and accomplish tasks while standing.

Number two: Introduce natural light where possible 

“Light attracts light.” ―Warsan Shire

Let the sunshine in! 

Working in a windowless environment is detrimental for human health, and unfortunately, today, it is a universal phenomenon. A new study titled, “Impact of Workplace Daylight Exposure on Sleep, Physical Activity, and Quality of Life” concludes that there is a strong relationship between workplace daylight exposure and employees' sleep, activity and quality of life. The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal SLEEP.

“Day-shift office workers’ quality of life and sleep may be improved via emphasis on light exposure and lighting levels in current offices as well as in the design of future offices,” said Cheung, study co-author and a doctoral candidate in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience program at Northwestern University in Chicago. Compared to workers in offices without windows, those with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night.

Another study shows that exposure to light turns the genes that control an organism’s internal clocks "on" and "off." Your circadian rhythms dictate your sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature and other important bodily functions.

By introducing more light into your offices and task light on each desk, as well on each lounging and sitting area, performance and concentration abilities will be enhanced. Wherever natural light is not possible, use glass dividers between desks that will amplify the light travelling from outside to create a brighter space indoors. Remove or minimise the fluorescent light and use LED tubes, bulbs, halogen or ceramic metal halide (CMH) lighting that are proven to be less energy-consuming, last longer as well have a better impact on human health. The most important tool to improve productivity, stay focused and not have your eyes feel strained in the office is to have a desk lamp that provides high-quality warm LED light that will create the perfect environment to concentrate and zoom in.

Number three: Create a biophilic design 

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature, it will never fail you.”  Frank Lloyd Wright 

Biophilic design incorporates elements from nature, such as plants, water features and anything that mimics natural environment into the workplace. Although this approach is still new, many experts believe by delivering many businesses immense benefits, it will soon become mainstream. Placing natural plants at the workplace will improve the air quality significantly as the greenery absorbs pollutants, toxins, airborne microbes, and bacteria.

Research by Norway’s Agricultural University in Oslo indicates that plants remove harmful volatile organic compounds, such as formaldehyde and benzene, found in paint, carpet and furniture of most buildings. Plants will help remove the toxins produced by printers, photocopiers and other office equipment as well as add moisture to the air, which inside offices is naturally dry. Incorporating other natural elements, such as an indoor water feature and wooden furniture, or paintings with a beautiful landscape, can help to create a more positive and joyful workplace ambience.

More greenery in your office will create a sense of connection to nature. Perhaps place an aquarium or a beautiful flower art designing a mindfulness zone to reduce the stress and enhance concentration. According to the Human Spaces Report 2015, which studied over 7,600 office workers in 16 countries, nearly two-thirds of workers have no live plants in their workspaces. The study also found that those whose environments have natural elements reported a 15% higher wellbeing score and a 6% higher productivity score than employees whose offices didn't include such elements.

Number five: Be creative use colours in your office

“Mere colour, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways. ” Oscar Wilde

The brain remembers information better when it’s presented in colour. Science has proven that images are most memorable when presented in a palette of colours derived from the natural world. When stimulated by colour, the brain has an increased capacity to transfer the visual image to the memory, and when scenes are presented in colour, the brain organises, compares and recalls information more efficiently than black and white scenes. The colour science is used now widely in visual arts to create a specific effect on the viewer. The idea of using colours to elicit certain emotion and mood goes beyond art and can be easily implemented at your business to strategically influence the behaviour of your employees.

How do different colours influence the nature of the brain? These are the top colours you can use to improve the workspace.

Red: Red shades are used to catch people’s attention. An experiment performed on students showed they scored higher on memory tasks when completing them on a red background. However, this finding depends on where you live and work. In North America, for example, red is aligned with danger or stopping, which increases the natural response of fight or flight that can cause the contrary effect at work.

Blue: Blue is proven to increase calmness and boost productivity. It is well known as a calming colour that can slow breathing and lower blood pressure.

Yellow: This tone will get people easily energised, joyful and collaborating. Yellow is possibly the most inviting and uplifting colour in the rainbow. No matter what shade it is, yellow reflects vibrancy and excitement.

Green: The shade of green brings people to a very calm and relaxed state of mind at work. Colour specialists and psychologists note that green is found frequently out in nature, and therefore promotes the welfare and peace of mind and happiness.

Orange: Orange can be utilised to raise the activity and productivity levels of your employees. Some research suggests orange may be the best colour to use around the office to boost productivity as it originates from mixing the shades of red and yellow together. Orange conveys enthusiasm and endurance.

Number six:  Convert unused spaces into a wellness room

“Please leave your shoes, stress, anxiety, worries, gossip, and cares at the door. Namaste.” Unknown

Have a walk around in your building and identify any unused space such as a rooftop, a balcony or a meeting ground that can potentially be a wellness zone. Place some yoga mats and perhaps a massage chair for stress relief, stretching, and meditating. If you don't have the budget for a fitness trainer, let the employees chip in and deliver every week 30 minutes to one hour of their favourite exercise. The great team spirit, along with the positive mental health effects of the exercise, will keep your employee wellness at the maximum levels at their private life and business.

A wellness room is a designated quiet area where employees can escape to when feeling the pressure of a fast-paced work environment and take some quiet time when they’re not feeling well.

Wellness rooms can serve numerous functions and should be customised to meet the unique needs of employees. For example, a company's wellness space might provide a private area for aroma, sound and light therapy (using different methods as natural lightboxes, soothing music and rejuvenating essential oil infusions to ease depression, relieve stress and uplift spirits).

Number seven: Grow a community by introducing workplace wellness committee 

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Mother Teresa  

As we grow older, we recognise the importance of having a good community and authentic genuine people we share our values with and feel respected and supported by. Having a wellness committee at your work will generate that strong sense of community. You can set up an internal wellness committee for your employees and assign tasks to produce monthly calendar visits of recognised experts, artists, healers, and coaches delivering a variety of creative workshops. That will give exposure to your employees as well as provide some valuable content. This can be set on a complimentary or minimum fee basis and linked to the company perks.

Employee satisfaction and engagement ensures the success of the programme. In turn, the employees will ensure programmes are always well-visited and promoted as well as guarantee success of the initiative in the future. The key here is to remain humble and open to feedback, constantly engage with the employees, ask for their opinion on what will make sense to them.

Another important factor is the representation of all the departments and positions in your company, so the wellness committee acts as the chair of a wellness program and provides from their respective areas on wellness objectives and initiatives.

The main objective of a wellness committee would be:

  • Create a healthy worksite culture
  • Foster collaboration between employees
  • Provides a communication link between employees and management

Organisations and businesses that create wellness environments and workplace wellness initiatives benefit greatly in several ways. The wellness environments are helping on:

  • Employee’s productivity: The energy promoting office space will correlate to increased productivity.
  • Less office stress: By becoming a healthy workplace, you reduce the probability of an employee coming back home stressed and the chances of him/her being in a better mental and physical shape next day when reporting back to work.
  • Fewer illnesses, better health: Healthy practices introduced at the office will encourage more employees to take part in, consequently boosting immunity and reducing absenteeism and sickness.
  • Happier employees: Offering a wellness sanctuary at work will promote and encourage a positive work environment.
  • Better company culture: Reshape the company’s culture to promote healthy living.

By creating a peaceful, restorative and inspiring place to walk into every day, you allow for creative and inspired employees to deliver their fruits of innovation and inspiration.

About the author

Neuro linguistic programmingVyara Tosheva

Wellness, Spa and Retreats Business Consultant

In over 19 years, Vyara Tosheva has gained professional experience in hospitality, leisure and wellbeing. Vyara graduated in Tourism Management and holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Sociology. She also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism, as well as internationally-accredited certification courses in Hospitality and Spa Management. She travels the world to enhance her expertise through further certifications in Ayurveda, Wellness and Fitness Consultancy, Coaching and Psychology.

She is a certified NLP and EFT master coach and Reiki practitioner. She also led the opening of The Retreat Palm Dubai, the first wellness retreat resort in the UAE and GCC, as well as the Rayya Wellness and Poli-clinic Centre. She created and managed the first holistic retreats in a hotel environment where in-house and visiting master practitioners, energy workers and doctors combine their knowledge with fitness, spa and beauty professionals to deliver transformational retreats.

As a consultant, she advises and consults with hospitality and spa executives on the creation of wellness projects and their execution.

Vyara’s mission is to empower busy executives to create or enhance their business models geared toward a wellness lifestyle on both professional and personal levels. Her vision, on the other hand, is to create worldwide wellness and health retreat centres that provide premium services for its employees, guests and visitors.



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