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Is your work environment holding you back?

Is your work environment holding you back?

Clients are often telling me that they don’t feel they are reaching their full potential at work. When I ask them why, they usually aren’t sure! The most common answers centre around ‘opportunities’ or ‘colleagues’, but rarely ever do people mention ‘work environment’.

What’s your current working environment?

Is it, open plan, private office, remote working, working from home… is the space light and airy or dark and confined? Is it noisy and bustling or quiet and calm? Are there break out spaces to relax and have informal conversations with your colleagues? Are there lots of plants and windows, or artificial light? Is there a whirring air conditioning unit, or plenty of fresh air and ventilation? Is the biscuit jar full of cookies, or is there a fruit bowl full of fruit? 

All these little things might seem irrelevant, but they can all have a powerful impact on how you work. 

Figure out how you work best.

The first step to finding the right working environment, is to figure out what environment allows you to excel. There are three ‘working styles’ that we all fall into. Which do you resonate with most?

  1. Independent workers, best on their own, working without interruption (remote working is ideal)
  2. Proximity workers, like to have a clear remit and “territory of responsibility” but also collaborate with others
  3. Co-operative workers, best surrounded by people and able to make decisions with others 

Which one, or two, sounds most like you? Think about a scenario when you can remember being super productive and performing at your best. Which working environment where you in? 

Knowing how we work best empowers us to find the right working environment in which to thrive. 

Once we’ve identified what kind of working style suits us, we can be more definite when speaking to colleagues and managers. If you are being asked to work in an open plan office, but that’s where you perform worst, then your manager would probably appreciate you letting them know! 

Finding the right working environment has endless benefits:

  • Increased concentration levels (see solution 1 a little further down)
  • Less sick days taken (see solution 2)
  • Increased productivity levels (see solution 3)
  • Calmer, less stressed employees (see solution 4)
  • Improved decision-making skills (see solution 5)
  • Less tired and more engaged employees (see solution 6)

What could you do to improve your work environment?

It’s not always possible to totally change your working environment. If you’re contracted to work in an open plan office, there are small changes you can make to ensure that your working environment is more conducive to work! 

Ask for a meeting with your manager. Tell them how you work best (give examples of when you’ve performed really well) and explain what a difference the working environment makes. Ask for small changes that don’t cost the earth yet will allow you to perform better. 

Think about the following things that we require to work well: 

1. Oxygen levels! The more oxygen your brain receives, the better it functions! Is there decent ventilation in your workspace or a smooth-running air-conditioning unit?

2. Light! If you work in a space that has limited natural light, then your mood will be decreased (literally darken.) Consider adding some SAD lights, turning your desk towards the window or moving furniture and clutter out of the way of windows. 

3. Temperature! Plenty of studies have linked temperature to productivity levels. When it’s too hot or too cold, it’s harder to work, so make sure your office temperature is around 21 degrees Celsius. You can read more about the perfect office temperature (as well as finding out how warm or cold the Oval offices and the Facebook offices are) here.

4. Noise! It’s hard to work when there’s lots of hustle and bustle around you. Increased noise levels have been found to cause a spike in blood pressure and increased heart rate, contributing to stress. It’s harder to focus on the task in hand when everyone’s talking about other things around you. Could you move to a quieter space? Or ask colleagues to have conversations elsewhere? Work from home a few days a week to allow full concentration? Or maybe invest in some noise cancelling head phones. 

work environment

5. Plants! Crowded rooms often suffer from a build up of CO2, which has a negative impact on our ability to perform and to make decisions. It can also result in headaches, sleepiness and even nausea. Add some plants and green up your working environment, to help increase the oxygen levels within the space. 

6. Ergonomic Desk Space! We sit at our desks for hours on end, so they need to be set up correctly to encourage good posture and avoid long term health issues. Ask for a proper desk chair, or try out a standing desk. Or just move around, and work from different set ups around the office to encourage movement and regular stretching. 

Don’t get stuck working in an environment that’s holding you back. Take control of the situation, speak to your manager, and make small changes that will add up to big changes to your productivity and employee satisfaction levels.