How bosses can design a more ergonomic, employee-friendly office

Most Americans spend a decent amount of time in the workplace, and no one wants to put in overtime when they’ve already spent eight long hours feeling uncomfortable. Those who work in ergonomic settings enjoy greater productivity and motivation than those who work in physically uncomfortable conditions.

To attract and retain the best employees, business owners and managers should invest the requisite time and energy to provide a pleasant working environment. When expanding to new locations or performing renovations, employers should remember the following comfort factors.


Lighting Matters

The harsh fluorescent lighting in many offices does far more harm than making everyone’s complexion look like they’re auditioning for the next season of The Walking Dead. While researchers disagree over whether or not fluorescent lighting triggers debilitating migraine attacks, many patients who suffer from them assert that the constant flickering and humming cause agony. One recent study suggested that spending hours under fluorescent lights leaves people more tired than spending time in natural light.

Whenever possible, add natural light to the workplace by selecting office locations with plenty of windows and skylights. If renovating, spend a bit more to install dimmable track lighting instead of fluorescent bulbs. The productivity boost will make up for the extra expense quickly.


Ditch the Institutional Green

Like poor lighting, institutional paint colors give employees flashbacks of their high school physics lab. Colors impact people’s moods immensely, so choose an office scheme that reflects the mission of the organization. Orange and red highlights evoke energy and enthusiasm needed by sales teams, while blue tones tend to calm, making them ideal for dental and therapy offices.

Avoid excessively black and green color schemes. While sleek black office chairs convey a sense of trustworthiness, black paint makes workers feel like their surrounded by negative vibes. Reserve the use of green for houseplants, as these tones indicate both jealousy and sickness.


Eliminate Ill-Fitting Desks

Constantly hunching over a too-small desk exacerbates spinal problems. Squinting at tiny print harms vision, and continually having hands uncomfortably arched over a keyboard due to a chair that won’t adjust leads to carpal tunnel syndrome.

The wrong flooring can lead to slip-and-fall injuries. Sure, that marble floor tile looks elegant, but should an employee slip and slide herself into a broken bone on the slick surface, her employer can look forward to a workers’ compensation claim. All business owners should take care that their office designs don’t lead to worker injury.


Quiet, Please

Overexposure to loud noise can damage hearing and raise stress levels. While factory owners know to take precautions against hearing damage by requiring the use of earplugs, owners of other types of businesses often fail to consider the impact constant construction noise has on a CPA’s ability to balance a ledger.

While experiencing a certain degree of noise in the workplace remains unavoidable, whenever possible, select quieter work environments and invest in insulation to muffle outside traffic and backhoe beeping.


Reconsider the Open Office Fad

Open office floor plans have become quite the rage, despite the fact that little scientific evidence supports the proposed benefits. Instead, research suggests that open office plans hinder communication rather than increase collaboration.

People need a certain degree of privacy to fully focus on the task at hand. Since open floor plans allow no such privacy, workers turn inwardly and become less communicative. Open offices often do the opposite of what they were intended for — they decrease face-to-face interactions while increasing electronic communication.

Try to create a workplace with a balance of areas for quiet work as well as places for team brainstorming. Allow employees to design a way to post a “Do Not Disturb” sign when engaged in mentally heavy tasks requiring peak concentration.


Put Another Coal on the Fire

Remember how a newly reformed Ebenezer Scrooge told Bob Cratchit to throw another coal on the fire after doubling his pay? While few organizations can afford to multiply every salary by two, most can turn the heat up a notch or two.

The vast majority of employees find their productivity drops in offices kept too hot or too cold. Managers in cold climates should follow Scrooge’s example by turning the heat up a notch, as workers need to thaw out after chilly commutes. Conversely, those in steamy locations should lower the AC enough in the summertime so that their team doesn’t experience a sweat bath every afternoon.


Ask Workers What They Need

Many business owners neglect simply asking their employees which comfy perks benefit them the most. Some employers invest much time and money on amenities that don’t truly impact productivity. Sure, many workers would jump at the chance to tap a beer keg in the company break room, but most employees care more about an atmosphere conducive to completing meaningful work than they do a free doughnut each Monday.

The most successful companies value employee comfort and invite open communication on meaningful ways to improve ergonomics. Some employees might do their best work at an adjustable desk that allows them to move from sitting to standing. Others may prefer exercise balls in lieu of traditional office chairs to aid their posture and alleviate back pain.


A More Inviting Work Environment

Considering the amount of time people spend at work, creating a comfortable office environment makes pulling the occasional late night overtime much more pleasant. Good managers care about the physical needs of their workers and take measures to increase employee satisfaction by providing ergonomic solutions to alleviate office pain. Retain the best team members by understanding and addressing the physical demands of the workplace.

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