Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Designing your own workspace improves health, happiness and productivity

07.09.2010
Employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier — they're also up to 32% more productive, according to new research from the University of Exeter in the UK.

Studies by the University's School of Psychology have revealed the potential for remarkable improvements in workers' attitudes to their jobs by allowing them to personalise their offices.

The findings challenge the conventional approach taken by most companies, where managers often create a 'lean' working environment that reflects a standardized corporate identity.

Dr Craig Knight conducted the research as part of his PhD and is now Director of PRISM – a company that deals with space issues in the workplace. He said "Most contemporary offices are functional and offer very little user control, but our studies suggest this practice needs to be challenged.

"When people feel uncomfortable in their surroundings they are less engaged – not only with the space but also with what they do in it. If they can have some control, that all changes and people report being happier at work, identifying more with their employer, and are more efficient when doing their jobs."

The research involved more than 2,000 office workers in a series of studies looking at attitudes to — and productivity within — working space. This included two surveys of workers' attitudes carried out via online questionnaires, as well as two experiments which examined workers' efficiency when carrying out tasks under different conditions.

The surveys assessed the level of control workers had over their space — ranging from none at all to being fully consulted over design changes. Workers were then asked a series of questions about how they felt about their workspace and their jobs.

Results consistently showed that the more control people had over their office spaces, the happier and more motivated they were in their jobs. They felt physically more comfortable at work, identified more with their employers, and felt more positive about their jobs in general.

Two further studies, one at the University and another in commercial offices saw participants take on a series of tasks in a workspace that was either lean (bare and functional), enriched (decorated with plants and pictures), empowered (allowing the individual to design the area) or disempowered (where the individual's design was redesigned by a 'manager').

People working in enriched spaces were 17% more productive than those in lean spaces, but those sitting at empowered desks were even more efficient — being 32% more productive than their lean counterparts without any increase in errors.

Professor Alex Haslam, who co-authored the research, said it was time for managers to recognise the potential improvements that can be made by handing some control of space over to workers and thereby giving them an opportunity to realise their own identity in the workplace.

He said: "Not only does office design determine whether people's backs ache, it has the potential to affect how much they accomplish, how much initiative they take, and their overall professional satisfaction. Further research that we and others have carried out also highlights strong links between a lack of control over workspace and sickness in the office.

"All this could have a huge impact for firms of any size, yet employers rarely consider the psychological ramifications of the way they manage space. By paying more attention to employees' needs they can boost wellbeing and productivity at minimal cost."

The research was carried out with the help of Ambius, a firm which specialises in providing services to enrich workspaces for businesses and was jointly funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Kenneth Freeman, Ambius' International Technical Director said: "This research shows that the spaces in which people work are hugely important to the way they do their jobs. It is clear that by working with employees to enrich workspace, businesses can help their workers to feel engaged and inspired, and this has clear benefits in helping companies grow and achieve their aims."

Editor's notes:

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high-quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total expenditure in 2009/10 was about £211 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.

The work of Craig Knight and Alex Haslam is published in two research papers.

Your Place or Mine? Organizational Identification and Comfort as Mediators of Relationships Between the Managerial Control of Workspace and Employees' Satisfaction and Well-being', is published in the British Journal of Management.

'The Relative Merits of Lean, Enriched, and Empowered Offices: An Experimental Examination of the Impact of Workspace Management Strategies on Well-Being and Productivity' is published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

For more information or to organise an interview with Craig Knight or Alex Haslam, please contact:

Daniel Williams
Press Officer
University of Exeter
Tel: 01392 722062
Email: d.d.williams@exeter.ac.uk

Daniel Williams | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.exeter.ac.uk

Further reports about: Designing ESRC Psychology Social Impacts Social Research Workspace experimental

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Drought hits rivers first and more strongly than agriculture
06.09.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

nachricht Landslides triggered by human activity on the rise
23.08.2018 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists present new observations to understand the phase transition in quantum chromodynamics

The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.

This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.

Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...

Im Focus: Patented nanostructure for solar cells: Rough optics, smooth surface

Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.

"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...

Im Focus: New soft coral species discovered in Panama

A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.

Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...

Im Focus: New devices based on rust could reduce excess heat in computers

Physicists explore long-distance information transmission in antiferromagnetic iron oxide

Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.

Im Focus: Finding Nemo's genes

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

One of the world’s most prominent strategic forums for global health held in Berlin in October 2018

03.09.2018 | Event News

4th Intelligent Materials - European Symposium on Intelligent Materials

27.08.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Astrophysicists measure precise rotation pattern of sun-like stars for the first time

21.09.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Brought to light – chromobodies reveal changes in endogenous protein concentration in living cells

21.09.2018 | Life Sciences

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>