In a recent American Society of Interior Designers poll of 200 business decision-makers, 68 percent said office design should be reviewed at least once every five years to help companies remain competitive. Thirty-six percent said office design should be reviewed annually.
Research shows that the more control employees have over their work environmentlighting, temperature and furniture that accommodates different postures and tasksthe more likely theyll be satisfied with their jobs and achieve greater productivity.
With so many affordable options available to improve any office environment, companies dont have to settle for outdated, uncomfortable and inefficient work spaces.
More important, companies that refuse to settle often learn that a good working environment can help attract and retain workers.
We all know about reality. Who has the money for a top-to-bottom overhaul? Deciding what to tackle first depends on who you ask.
Therese OToole, owner of Therese OToole Interiors in Cleveland, says the aesthetics of a workplace reveal a companys philosophy and culture, and the atmosphere can either promote or prohibit professional attitudes among staff.
Pam Lahm, owner of Lahm & Associates Interior Design in North Canton, says color psychology and color responseoften overlooked variables of interior designhave significant impact on attitude and productivity.
Linda Chiera-Walker, interior designer at Braun & Steidl Architects Inc. in Akron, stresses that whether a work space is a private office, a shared area or a cubicle, there should be a designated work space for every employee to make each feel at home.
Terri Mauer, president of Mauer Design Group in Bath, says she sees many companies still using what she calls World War II desks, on top of which they stack computers and keyboards. When you look at the costs of a lawsuit, workers comp and down time when people are off work with backs out of whack or wrecked wrists, the money is a moot point compared to the cost of improving a work situation.
Employers checklist: Is your office environment working for you?
Here is a checklist of considerations from the experts to help keep the workplace humming:
Avoid fluorescent lights. Choose task-ambient lighting that alleviates eye strain. Softer lighting engenders a warm atmosphere and promotes productivity. In windowless work spaces, use full-spectrum light bulbs, which more closely match natural lighting.
Ergonomically correct chairs that encourage active sitting will reduce neck and back strain. The right seat offers lumbar support and positions the knees slightly lower than the base of the spine. Seatbacks and armrests should be fully and easily adjustable to accommodate separate taskssuch as keyboard work and desk dutiesand enable the users feet to remain flat on the floor or footrest.
Desk and work surfaces
Allow for generous desktop and computer table space for separate tasks. Built-in units are often more efficient and less expensive than desks, but they arent portable, nor do contemporary metal units with laminate surfaces add the warmth that wood brings. Black surfaces lead to eye strain and lower productivity.
Computer accessory placement
The American National Standards Institute and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society recommend computer tables that put screen placement at least 20 inches away from the users eyes, with the monitor viewing area below eye level so a users neck and head are in a neutral position. Keyboard trays should tilt and move up and down so users can customize keyboard positions to reduce arm and wrist strain. Gel-filled wrist rests and mouse pads promote proper alignment of wrists and hands. And glare-resistant screens ... well, you know what they do.
Personal space Dont discourage employees from personalizing work spaces with accessories, artwork and photos, because theres no place like home, and you want them to feel that way, right? Items of questionable nature that might offend others should be left at home.
Storage Afford as much storage and locked-drawer space as possible for a sense of territory and privacy (and to discourage cluttered work surfaces and cramped work areas).
Background noise While soft, instrumental background music can stimulate neurons and promote creativity, music is a personal choice. Think twice before spinning easy listening tunes or classic oldies on the speaker system. And keep volume levels low on radios allowed in open areas.
Compliance issues Universal designthe application of accessibility codes to make public spaces available to the handicappedis often absent in work environments, and businesses are bound by law to comply. Fire safety is also an issue overlooked until its too late.
Miscellaneous Designate a separate room for breaks and lunch time, to promote relaxation and help employees balance productivity. Provide a protected area for coats, umbrellas and boots. Potted plants bring warmth to a confined environment; plants also oxygenate and clean the air.
Employers checklist: Creating a better cubicle
While portable work stations can be designed to cater to a persons specific needs and reconfigured to relocate employees, here are cubicle caveats to contemplate:
Consider acoustics when designing work stations.
Higher panels are better, for noise reduction and storage.
Incorporate a tack board surface for memos and personal items.
Use soft materials to absorb noise (carpet, upholstery, window fabric vs. blinds, wood vs. metal, acoustical wall covering vs. paint).
Keep colors light and neutral to relieve eye strain, promote a comfortable atmosphere and make it easier to coordinate designs in future work stations.
Hot colors for offices in 1999
Spice tones: burnt orange, terra cotta, curry yellows and golds paired with burgundies and browns.
Indigo tones: purples, indigo blue and bright blue-green.
Neutrals: charcoal gray, blue gray and green grays.
Warm tones: pearly whites and grays.
How to reach: Lahm & Associates Interior Design (330) 497-9060; Mauer Design (330) 666-0802; Braun & Steidl Architects Inc. (330) 864-7755; Therese OToole Interiors (440) 777-5150