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Workplaces are supposed to be productive. Being productive is not a straightforward concept. In simplest terms, being productive is defined as the rate of output per input unit. However, in a workplace, this cannot be so accurately measured particularly when it comes to human performance. Depending on the kind of organization, there are several other factors that impact this such as cost, efficiency, and value.
Department of Labour describes workplace productivity as “Productive workplaces are built on teamwork and a shared vision of where a business is heading. There’s a willingness at all levels to keep learning and investing in skills.” Employee productivity is an assessment of the efficiency of a worker or group of workers.
In some ways, productivity is a more useful concept than efficiency, which can sometimes lead to a focus on time rather than the quality of output. Productivity takes the value of the output into account too and also suitability to the purpose for which it is created. Since it is tricky to quantify the output and results, productivity is often linked to mental well-being and how happy the employers feel in the workplace. A positive workplace culture enables employees to achieve their maximum productivity by increasing their morale and preventing stress and burnt-out. When employees are more in control of their lives, they feel fulfilled and happier. Productivity also results in the optimization of resources.
Can Design Support Productivity?
In most cases, employees spend more than 50% of their waking hours at the workplace and that environment greatly influences their performance and mental framework. To create productive workplaces, we need to design a workplace strategy that supports and enables efficient, happier and healthier employees.
Creativity: Creativity has a much broader definition than what it is traditionally defined as. Creative thinking is “out of box thinking”, it is creating innovation, and it is making connections and links where seemingly none exist. In this TED talk, I talk about how creative thinking helped with my own mental well-being, and how it is inextricably linked to evolution and human civilization. Scientific research has also shown the connection between creativity and mental health. Creativity is the capacity to generate new ideas, it is the ability to take risks, and exploit new opportunities.
In this way, I firmly believe that creative thinking is what drives our economy forwards and all entrepreneurs benefit from it. By empowering the workforce into thinking creatively speeds decision making and enhances the generation of new ideas and collaborations. In doing so, the employees have a better sense of purpose and they are, therefore, happier and more productive. Designs that allow employees to collaborate with each other, for chance encounters and meetings, for serendipitous conversations and ideas, as well as for quiet reflection permits both flexibility and personalization, and well as keeping the workplace exciting and stimulating. Both active engagement and distance are needed in order for the creative resolution of problems. When employees are excited, energized, and happier, they are bound to be more productive and also efficient with both time and resources.
Spaces that allow for incubation of ideas, and those that give freedom to the employees to choose the way they want to work help create an emotional connection between the people and the place. An emotional connection provides focus and respite and is comforting. When a strong connection is forged, then the movement in the place becomes effortless and seamless, and valuable time and energy is not wasted. The resources can then be used on work that matters most.
Spaces that do not require enormous amounts of energy to navigate through and interact with, and provide seamless transitions between technology-enabled and technology-free spaces, of varying scales, allow people to foster and nurture creative confidence.
Ergonomics is aimed at creating the most comfortable environment for people who use the spaces they inhabit every day. While colors, layout, the flow of spaces, textures, and materials affect the emotional response to the spaces, ergonomics is aimed at physical comfort that in turn affects mental well-being. Ergonomics is the process of designing or arranging workplaces, products, and systems so that they fit the people who use them. According to Safe Work Australia, the total economic cost of work-related injuries and illnesses is estimated to be $60 billion dollars. Recent research has shown that lower back pain is the world’s most common work-related disability. An ergonomic assessment takes into account the arrangement of workstations, the assessment of employees and their attitudes, capacities, and limitations, and the way human body, technology, and space interact with each other. In an ergonomic-centered design, anthropometric proportions of body sizes, shapes, and variations are considered so that there is a negligible strain on the human body while performing everyday functions. It also considers the individual and collective responses to variations in heat, light, noises, etc. and an understanding of social psychology such as group interactions and behaviors.
Workplace design for productivity is an inter-disciplinary approach. What works best is a thorough audit and assessment of not only the physical characteristics of a workplace but also an understanding of the requirements and expectations of the employees, an in-depth observation of how people, work, collaborate and communicate, and the challenges and limitations that they face in being creative, and effective.
A good design is one that is for the people. A good human-centered design creating flexible and inclusive spaces, one that allows personalization, is one that will create opportunities for the employees to work most efficiently, and therefore be productive.
December 24, 2018 at 12:25AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs