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Guest Blog: How to create a workplace environment which encourages performance

10 August 2019

As a trainer, consultant and facilitator I have worked in many different workplace environments; motorway side hotels and conference centres, glass filled city high rises, boutique office spaces and sports stadiums. Wherever I am, one of the first things I do when I arrive is to scan the environment to check out what I am working with. The space may seem like a minor concern, but in my experience of running thousands of training sessions and workshops, the “comfort factors” are a crucial ingredient to the success of the day.

Whether you are chairing a meeting, running a workshop or facilitating a training session it’s vital that you get these basics right if you want to keep your teams engaged, focused and able to perform. Here’s my advice on three of the most important elements.

1. Lighting – always choose rooms with windows that let in plenty of natural light.

Having trained in many rooms (including some basements!) without windows and only florescent strip lighting I have seen what a negative impact it can have on levels of engagement and focus. Mine and the delegates! Where the room is windowless lighting technology has advanced enormously. Led lighting offers a far superior quality of light than strip lights. And at the advanced end of the scale, daylight integrated lighting control systems regulate the level of artificial light in response to the level of natural light in a room. 

Phyllis Zee, M.D., a Northwestern Medicine neurologist and sleep specialist who led a study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says “There is increasing evidence that exposure to light, during the day…is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism.” The study showed that working without natural light can also be detrimental to your productivity, health and overall wellbeing. Studies also show that light is a major factor in the brain’s ability to focus and of course natural light is a great source of vitamin D.

2. Temperature – aim for 22° C / 71.6°F and encourage layers

Anyone who has worked in an office is familiar with the aircon show down; Steve is too hot, Lucy is too cold, John is just right. Whatever you, or the poor facilities management team, try, you just can’t get a temperature that suits everyone. A 2015 survey of 129 office workers in the US found that 42% of people think their building is too warm, while 56% think it’s too cold. Furthermore, unsatisfactory temperature control also has financial implications. In all, around 2% of office hours in the UK are wasted by battles for climate control, costing the economy more than £13 billion each year.

According to the Helsinki University of Technology Laboratory for Heating, Ventilating and Air-conditioning the ideal temperature for the “typical” office is around 22° C / 71.6°F. So it’s also important to know how the air conditioning system works! I’ve certainly made the mistake of trying to regulate temperature by turning the system on or off. It doesn’t help, instead keep it on and just adjust the temperature. Also make sure it’s on the right setting, it won’t get much cooler if it is on heat instead of cool.

Finally, if you can encourage people to bring layers if they tend to get cold. It’s generally better for people to be a little on the chilly side (but not cold) than too warm as cooler workplaces are thought to keep people more alert.

3. Fresh Air – choose rooms with windows that open and let air circulate

The alternative to air conditioning of course is to regulate temperature with fresh air circulation. One of my biggest bugbears is windows that don’t open! I always try to go for a walk during breaks and encourage my delegates to do so too, but with some meetings it just isn’t possible.  And a brief dose of fresh air once a day just isn’t enough.

Many studies (see some here https://buildingevidence.forhealth.org/) have shown that fresh outdoor air inside is critical for health. A study by Joseph G Allen, Jack Spengler and Piers MacNaughton, at Harvard University, showed that found that “breathing better air led to significantly better decision-making performance among our participants. We saw higher test scores across nine cognitive function domains when workers were exposed to increased ventilation rates”.

To find out more about how MBM Omega can help create a healthy, productive office environment, take a look at our Office Interior solutions here.

If you’re looking to revitalise your workplace, why not get in touch? Give us a call on 020 8899 1100 to learn more.

This guest blog was written by Fiona Doran-Smith from Yellow Tree Wellbeing. Fiona has worked in Learning and Development since 2002 and started specialising in the area of wellbeing in 2008. She is the co-founder and lead consultant at Yellow Tree Wellbeing, which provides workplace wellbeing solutions. You can learn more about Yellow Tree Wellbeing here.