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Workspace and productivity

How does the physical work environment affect employees?

The environment around us has a major impact on our happiness and is an important factor as we consider how to motivate staff to increase productivity. For example, a fascinating study recorded by Science Direct revealed how children perform around 16% better when the environment suits learning. The three key components appear to be:

  1. Naturalness: light, sound, temperature, air quality and links to nature. 
  2. Individualisation: ownership, flexibility and connection.
  3. Stimulation (appropriate level of): complexity and colour.

It strikes some of us as interesting, therefore, that we target managers on their people performance, but we don’t target them on managing the environment in which their people work. The environment is taken as given, with little leeway for change. Managers are expected to get results without having any control over one of the most influential factors affecting those results.

Could we do anything about it?

Workspace and productivity

Our physical working environment directly influences our well-being, performance and productivity. How is your your workspace?


Well number 1. above (Naturalness) is largely covered by health and safety law, although the interesting element of this one is ‘links to nature’. The proverbial office pot plant comes into its own? Numbers 2 and 3 (Individualisation & Stimulation) could perhaps be affected quite a lot more by our management practices.

Ways to bring 2 and 3 into life would be to regularly:

  • Ask staff about their level of happiness with their environment by giving them a scoring system, then agree together how to improve the score.
  • Allow staff to change their environment e.g. move things around.
  • Make sure staff are in a large enough space to give a sense of space control (space control is harder to achieve is everything is crammed in).
  • Where possible encourage different environments if that helps output, e.g. working from home, working from a hotel lobby from time to time.
  • Have a fun rotation scheme for staff to ‘decorate’ with posters, pictures.
  • Ensure staff have quiet / ability to concentrate places to work when needed.
  • Introduce background music where appropriate, let staff make the selections.
  • Grow plant life in the office, go beyond the potted plant to more imaginative foliage, see for ideas.
 how to motivate staff to increase productivity

Mark Miller is MD of Goodfoot, and author of 'Hamsters Can't Dance",  a tongue in cheek look at management challenges.


Historically, as managers perhaps we tend to focus on output without regard to environment. We sometimes seem to accept the environment is as it is, and make it a low priority to improve it. If we want to increase the amount of fun in the workplace in order to enhance productivity, perhaps it is worth considering how we can affect one of the key influences on our behaviour, notably our environment. And changing it could actually be fun!

For further ideas, feel free to download our 'Fun at Work' eBrief, click on the link below.

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  • How to make your voice work for you
  • How to negotiate a deal
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Wishing you a productive day!