Have you ever walked into an office or work space and thought how can anyone possibly work here and function, let alone enjoy it? It’s surprising how little thought some businesses put into getting the best out of their most precious asset – their people.
Even in a home office, there are some essential elements that we can improve that will boost our creativity, health, happiness and, ultimately, our work performance.
On a recent episode of the Spaces podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking to an expert in the field of work space design – Anetta Pizag. Anetta is a work space design consultant and author who has helped dozens of businesses improve their work spaces and get the best from their people. Here are some of the top tips she shared for creating an effective work space.
Light up Your Life (the Right Way)
This one is a little trickier for most offices and home work spaces. As Anetta puts it: “artificial lighting needs to be very good, and it’s almost always terrible. I could go on a rant about this,” she says.
So what’s good? “Good lighting is as close to natural lighting in the outdoors as possible, without actually creating strain on the eyes, so we don’t want glare,” Anetta says. “When you go outside, you see a bright coloured sky, darker coloured ground. And there’s a lot of reflected light outside, therefore when you’re talking to somebody outside you see their faces are well lit. You see the natural colours of the person’s face. You can talk to them and see subtle expression of emotion on their face, and that’s good lighting.
“When you go to an office there’s very often a dark ceiling and very bright spotlights directly downwards, then when you look at people’s faces the colour is not right, the shadows are not right, and there’s a lot of glare, which is a massive strain on the eye that often people don’t even notice. They actually need to struggle to see, and that struggle takes away from the effort they can put into their work,” Anetta says.
Air is important. Who knew? I’m being facetious, but really, how often do we think about the quality of the air we’re breathing, either in the office or your home work space. Anetta puts it succinctly: “Good quality air, you can’t compromise on that. If people feel stuffy, they just can’t think,” she says.
Anetta looks at it in a more holistic way. “The other thing we need to look at is do we expect people to work in the same office every single day. Maybe we don’t need to come to the office every day. If your office on, I don’t know, the 24th floor in one of the CBD towers, that office will always be air-conditioned, you can’t help that. But maybe you have the option of working at home at times,” she says. It’s food for thought.
Put your Back into Some Good Ergonomics
As Anetta says, “good ergonomic chairs to sit on is fundamental.” This is a subject we only touched on in our conversation, and not one that I have any specialist knowledge in.
But it’s probably a no-brainer, particular if you find yourself sitting for long periods of time, that you choose office furniture that’s suited to your body and enables you to maintain good posture. It can only be a positive. That said, Anetta did mention the growing trend she is seeing towards walking meetings, which might be something worth considering.
Turn the Noise Down and Tune in
Noise, and the distraction caused by noise, is one of the biggest factors that negatively affect a work space, and is typically the most complained about.
As Anetta puts it, “noise control is fundamental, whether or not noise control is with acoustic treatments of the space or by providing quiet rooms, or even noise cancelling headphones. There are many ways to deal with that,” she says. “And also who sits where and how different groups and departments are organised, and where different individuals are located. That comes into play as well.”
Zoning can help. “Zoning means that in certain parts of the office there is very, very low noise, and people who choose to work in that office are aware of that, so they don’t take phone calls, they’re not playing music, they’re not talking to each other while in that particular space,” Anetta says.
“There’s a second zone that’s in between where you keep your voice low, but you can talk to people. If you’re taking a call and your voice is very loud, there’s a special place where it’s okay to talk loud, and there are areas that really buzzing, noisy and playful. Usually these noisier areas are closer to the main circulation route of the office,” she says. “In addition to these different zones, you can always provide quiet rooms or pods for individuals or small groups.”
A factor that is closely related to this is personal space, or the lack thereof. Anetta’s experiences are telling. “Personal space is very important, particularly if people feel that their personal space is invaded, either because the office is too crowded or they have nowhere to go when they need a moment of privacy. So many people just go and sit on the loo, because they just need that moment of quiet time. In many offices there’s no other option. I think that’s non negotiable,” Anetta says.
You can hear the entire conversation with Anetta Pizag here.