No matter what market your company might target, ultimately you're in the people business. Even as a freelancer with no true employees, I’ve found that the customer is always right, and you must make them happy. If you’re running a company, your employees are your most valuable resource, and it behooves you to get the most out of them.
One way to do this is by hacking your workplace. In recent years, scientific breakthroughs have radically improved manufacturing processes, revolutionizing communication and resulting in new, useful products. However, even though the workplace is changing, too many offices still look the same as they did 30 years ago. Here are some ways you can harness new scientific understanding to help your office be more productive.
1. Let In Natural Light
Researchers at Northwestern University recently catalogued the effects of natural sunlight on office workers and they are startling. Workers in offices with exposure to natural light got nearly an hour more of sleep each night and reported better physical health, energy and overall quality of life.
Happy, healthy employees are more productive employees. The simple act of making sure your office has plenty of windows can lead to a significant improvement in productivity.
2. Allow Flexibility
Employees with flexible work schedules report greater satisfaction, less absenteeism and overall higher productivity. Workers with flexible hours are better able to attend to their personal lives, meaning that when they're at work they are happier and less distracted, two things science (and common sense) show are correlated with productivity.
3. Turn Up The Thermostat
Some companies might try to keep the temperature low during the winter to save on heating expenses, but they're actually costing themselves money. “The results of our study... suggest raising the temperature to a more comfortable thermal zone saves employers about $2 per worker, per hour,” says Alan Hedge, a professor of design and environmental analysis at Cornell University. Hedge's study found that lower temperatures led to less total output and significantly more errors.
4. Think About Color
White walls can induce feelings of depression. Colors can change our moods and impact productivity. Low-wavelength colors such as blue or green can lead to higher contentment and productivity, while red increases alertness and attention to detail.
5. Take Breaks
We constantly hear about how businesses lose millions of employee hours to sites like Facebook and YouTube. However, new research suggests that allowing employees to take short breaks on sites they enjoy is much more beneficial to productivity than trying to buckle down and resist the urge.
6. Keep The Noise Down
This would be another tip that seems obvious, but scientists have discovered just how damaging excess noise can be to workplace productivity. Cornell researchers found that even little things like conversations or a beeping printer can increase an employee's negative mood, make it difficult for them to focus, and then cause stress as their decreased focus makes it harder to complete tasks.
7. Take Naps
Napping at work might seem like the ultimate sign of laziness, but it has strong support behind it. Winston Churchill took afternoon naps throughout World War II. More recently, research has shown that a short nap can be a great way to combat the dreaded 2pm crash. Combining a nap with coffee (or one of its alternatives) might be even more effective.
8. Get Moving
Getting up and moving around while at work helps make employees healthier, happier and more alert. This can come in the form of breaks, standing desks or anything that gets people out of a traditional seated position. A recent study even found that employees working on slow-moving treadmills reported overall productivity gains.
9. Make The Office Smell Nice
Aromatherapy has long faced skepticism from the scientific community, and while some of its more ambitious claims are still disputed, most now agree that its claims of mood improvement are well founded. Scents such as lemon oil stimulate signals to the amygdala and other emotional centers of the brain and may have a positive impact.
10. Encourage Healthy Snacks
Our understanding of how our diets impact our thought processes is constantly improving. Choline, a vitamin found in eggs, can enhance memory and reaction time. Carbohydrates can be mentally soothing. Supplying employees with the right snacks can improve their mental state and make them more productive.