Physical Environment And Your Workflow

office-cubiclesNot too long ago, I was imprisoned in a cold, gray, isolated cubicle with outdated furniture and a broken fan. Ok, so, imprisoned might be too harsh of a word but some days, that’s what it truly felt like. Even though it was a job that I was particularly fond of, I started to find myself easily distracted, unnecessarily down, and eventually— less productive. The dreary setting wasn’t very conducive for a positive, happy, and fruitful workflow.

The work place is somewhere most people will spend half their day. For many it could be even more. This much time in a particular setting will undoubtedly alter your frame of mind. You can think of your work place as its own entity with its own personality and quirks. The design and the atmosphere of the workplace do influence your mood, behavior, and disposition. All of that, in turn, will directly impact work performance and proficiency.

Lately, there is a growing trend within businesses to promote harmony within the physical and social environment of the workplace. Countless studies have repeatedly shown how vital a positive social work environment is for employee morale. Newer studies are showing a direct correlation to office design and employee efficiency. A study by the American Society of Interior Designers states that office design is one of the top three factors that influence job performance and satisfaction.

Office furniture, noise levels, distractions, lighting, air quality and temperature are among the top factors influencing employee productivity.

Furniture and Design

It would make sense that uncomfortable and poorly designed chairs and desks would inhibit productivity. Physical discomfort from subpar furniture can lead to knee, back, neck pain. Constant discomfort could make it hard for employees to focus on that upcoming project or finish that task with a looming deadline. Increased sick leave usage and absentee’s are also a direct consequence of work related pain.

Office furniture traditionally isn’t the most comfortable to begin with. When looking for chairs, it’s important to choose ones that offer lower back support to promote better posture. Sitting for extended periods of time adds stress and constriction to the structure of the spine and no one has time for that. Choosing the right ergonomic chair is specific to the users needs. Important features to look for are adjustable heights and armrests, lumbar support, adequate seat width, and breathable seat material. There are quite a few ergonomic styles available now: kneeling, backless chairs, saddle chairs (yes, like a horse saddle), and exercise ball chairs (yes, it bounces).

Equally important are the computer tables and desks. The right table can make the difference between an inspired day and a disorganized day. For the majority of people, clutter can impair productivity and motivation. Your personal workspace environment directly coincides with your performance level. Having a clean, organized, and orderly space induces a purposeful mindset that is ready to work. When looking for a computer table or desk to fit your needs, there are a couple aspects to consider. The height of the table is a primary concern whether you’re working while sitting, standing, or bouncing. Think about spatial arrangements to avoid feeling cramped. Look for quality, durability, and multi-purpose features such as previously installed plug-ins and drawers.

Noise and Distractions

Perhaps it’s Kathy who feels the need to fill you in on every detail of her day or the person across from you talking loudly on the speakerphone. Maybe it’s the constant buzzing of office machines, outside construction, or the music blaring from your neighbor’s headphones. For some people noise is a major player for feelings of distractions and anxiety. Constant interruption leads to the inability to focus and to a decrease in work production. Unfortunately, not all noise can be avoided but the workplace should be monitored to keep distractions to a minimum.


Often overlooked, lighting plays an important role in a healthy and productive work environment. Studies show that offices with natural light and windows have more productive employees. Seeing the outside reduces feelings of stress. Good lighting and desk lamps are worth investing in. Without good lighting, some employees may suffer from eyestrains, headaches, and migraines and that will lead to inefficiency in their workflow.

Air Quality and Temperature

Unless you’re an Inuit or a Floridian being too hot or too cold in the workplace really does affect your motivation and concentration. A study released by Cornell University in 2004 showed employees weren’t just cold and uncomfortable, but also appeared distracted and less motivated to work when temperatures were low. The same study showed on the job errors were increased by 44% when the temperature was set at 68 degrees compared to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. With a comfortable temperature and having fresh, free flowing air employee performance is optimal.

marianaMariana Sarceda is a professional copywriter who’s spent long hours in noisy offices, grey cubicles and on chairs with no back support. She’s convinced that offering employees a well-designed and healthy working environment, ergonomic furniture that allows them to be productive and stay organized.  Follow her on Twitter.

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