3 Invisible Elements That Greatly Impact Workplace Productivity

Sometimes, it's non tangible elements that affect the work performance the most
  • Wellness trends and the human-focused workplace have had a great impact on design
  • Workplace design can have positive or negative effects on  a person’s health, wellbeing, and productivity.
  • Non tangible elements play a key role in workplace design, productivity, and health.

When it comes to the workplace, whether it is a corporate office, a private office, or a coworking space, the main reason people go there is to work; to be productive. In the past, people didn’t give much thought to how the built environment affected an individual; however wellness trends and the increasing popularity of the human-focused workplace have had a deep effect on design.

Studies and research have found evidence that workplace design  can have a positive or negative effect on a person’s health, wellbeing, and productivity.  Which is why lighting, biophilia, and color have taken center stage in modern workplace design. Today we are seeing workplaces that encourage physical activity, that strategically place water stations, that include yoga rooms, and that offer bike storage and showers; all in the hopes of improving a person’s wellbeing and work performance.

To improve productivity even more, workplace operators and building owners should also think about the non tangible elements that also play a key role in our health and productivity levels.

Air Quality

Last year (2017) the Harvard Business Review published an article titled “Research: Stale Office Air Is Making You Less Productive”, in which Joseph G. Allen shared the findings of a double-blind study that looked at how air affects a person’s cognitive performance. The research found that:

“Better air led to significantly better decision-making performance among our participants. (…) The results showed the biggest improvements in areas that tested how workers used information to make strategic decisions and how they plan, stay prepared, and strategize during crises. These are exactly the skills needed to be productive in the knowledge economy.”

Furthermore, a World Green Building Council report sponsored by JLL, Lend Lease, and Skanska found that “improvements of 8-11% are not uncommon as a result of better air quality.”

Thermal Comfort

Temperature ranked as one of the top 10 workplace complaints in an IFMA survey. Temperature wars are a common phenomenon in workspaces across the world. Some like it hot, some like it cold, and it’s impossible to please everyone.

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Finding the right temperature isn’t just about figuring out how cold or hot it is; it also needs to take into consideration humidity levels, workplace density, and the time of the year (are people wearing Winter or Summer clothes?).

One way to improve thermal comfort in the workplace to enhance productivity is to give people some control. According the the World Green Building Council report, “even modest degrees of personal control over thermal comfort can return single digit improvements in productivity.”

In shared workspaces where people can’t have control of the temperature, flexible workspace operators should offer members choice. To do this, they should heed the advice of WELL Standard: to provide areas with different thermal gradients, which requires for temperature to vary within the built environment. This will give occupants the opportunity to choose where they feel the most comfortable to work.


According to a recent Unispace research “noise is the primary cause of inefficiency at work”. This is especially true in open plan workspaces where noise and distractions prevent people from focusing on individual tasks. It’s no wonder then that headphones have become the walls of the workplace in the world of coworking.

According to the World Green Building Council report, there is a 66% drop in performance when exposed to noise. “Distractions from internal or external sources of noise can impact considerably on productivity. In fact, distraction from noise is often one of the lead causes of dissatisfaction with the office environment.” Noise can also increase stress levels.

However, a completely quiet space isn’t the answer; there is a difference between sound and noise. To help improve workplace acoustics, operators can use plants, give members access to quiet areas, or use specific construction and design materials.

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