THE IMPACT OF THE OFFICE ENVIRONMENT ON EMPLOYEE PRODUCTIVITY By. Tjare A. Tjambolang,SE,M.M.Tour. Abstract The quality and quantity of work generated by employees are influenced by the office environment while poor environmental conditions can cause inefficient worker productivity as well as reduce their job satisfaction. This paper will describe some elements of the office environment that can impact on employee productivity and will address lighting, noise, color, and air quality. Office furniture and equipment as the key physical factors in the office will discuss as well. For better understanding on the topic, a real life office situation is evaluated based on the theory. four factors of the office environment under which it has impact on employee productivity that are: lighting, noise, color, and air quality. All of these factors cannot be treated separately, as they connect with each other. The office environment plays a very important role if the organisation would like to maintain better productivity as many employees spend most of their time on generating activities in the office.
1. Introduction The office environment in which employees work and undertake most of their activities can impact on their productivity. The quality and quantity of work generated by employees are influenced by the office environment (Keeling and Kallaus 1996), while Quible (1996) points out that poor environmental conditions can cause inefficient worker productivity as well as reduce their job satisfaction, which in turn will impact on the financial well-being of the organisation. Extensive research concerning the effect of an unfavorable workplace environment on employee productivity has been undertaken worldwide. The majority of research found that there were several elements known to contribute both positively and negatively to productivity. Some researchers discovered that these elements affected both the psychological and physiological welfare of the workers, causing such conditions as eyestrain, fatigue, headache, back pain, and nausea (Quible 1996). It is important to solve these problems, otherwise it will place the organisation in a bad situation as many people in the office may become sick due to inadequate office conditions. Administrative Office Managers should be able to organise the workplace based on an ergonomically sound office environment. According to Keeling and Kallaus (1996) ergonomics or sometimes called human engineering is the study of how physiological factors such as light, color, sound, and temperature can be appropriate for the space, furniture, and equipment, in order to meet better psychological criteria among workers. Further Quible (1996) states that ergonomics is a structured environment to help employees in recognising their needs and make sure that equipment and tools, the tasks, and the environment can work together. Fritscher-Porter (2003) points out that the best solution to gain better efficiency, productivity, and contentment in the workplace is by providing an ergonomically sound office. In addition, according to Smith (2003, p.2) Ergonomics is positioned to
management as a way to improve business performance through better management of human capital . Human capital is a very important asset in organisation, and it cannot be replaced by anything. Another issue, which is important to consider in enhancing employee productivity, is by selecting and using proper furniture and equipment, the key physical factors in the office (Keeling and Kallaus 1996). Though, the office environment has been set up and applied an ergonomical sound office, a suitable office furniture and equipment, such as copier machines, facsimile, office desks, and chairs, which help employees in undertaking their jobs, is also essential in relation to achieve productivity. Therefore, Administrative Office Managers have important responsibility to ensure that office furniture and equipment meet the ergonomic needs of employees. This paper will describe some elements of the office environment that can impact on employee productivity and will address lighting, noise, color, and air quality. Office furniture and equipment as the key physical factors in the office will discuss as well. For better understanding on the topic, a real life office situation is evaluated based on the theory. 2. The Impact of The Office Environment on Employee Productivity 2.1. Lighting In offices, lighting is needed to help employees in maintaining and generating their visual tasks (Bachner 2000). Thus, lighting is crucial to enhance the effectiveness of visual review and inspectations. According to Keeling and Kallaus (1996), there are three important goals of using light in the workplace: generating an appropriate, adequate, and safe area for work forming pleasant and aesthetical vision saving energy There are two kinds of light that are available to office: natural light and artificial light (Keeling and Kallaus 1996). Natural light is a free resource that enters the office through window or skylight, whereas artificial light is the kind of light which is produced and designed by manufacturing. A poor lighting system may reduce employee performance as well as productivity, because those who have to work related with reading might have a serious problem with their vision, which in turn may cause fatigue or eyestrain. Keeling and Kallaus (1996) point out that Administrative Office Managers should also take into account the amount of light as well as the quality of lighting. More lights, for some workers, may be helpful in overcoming their tasks. However, for the rest of them, especially those who have to work in front of computers, excessive light may cause difficulties viewing the characters on the screen. In addition, those employees who work in a better quality of lighting are likely to create faster work with fewer errors, compared to those work in a poor lighting (Bachner 2000). When selecting the lighting for a workplace, Administrative Office Managers may have to consider the ergonomics of lighting. That is how to choose an appropriate light based on employees needs (Powell and Weinberg 2002). One research study
conducted by Rocky Mountain Institute (2000) analysed and found that lighting, heating, and cooling have a positive effect on worker productivity and generate a negative correlation with work performance and absenteeism. Therefore, according to Berman (cited by Raiford 1999, p.29) by paying careful attention to how people perceive light, facilities professionals can facilitate functionality . 2.2. Noise Noise is another element of the office environment, which has an important role in affecting employee productivity. Too much noise, such as sound from equipment, tools, and people s conversation, may prevent workers concentrating on their jobs, consequently decreasing their productivity. However, according to Keeling and Kallaus (1996) people cannot achieve good performance in a silent environment, because at some level, sound may generate a healthy background and can also assist employees accomplish their work. According to Dynasound Collaborative Studies of five major corporations, noise contributes the biggest proportion on the office environment distractions at 71%, followed by air (20%) and lighting (9%), respectively (Folsom 2003). Subsequently, Quible (1996) points out that excessive noise can affect employees psychologically due to an increase of blood pressure and metabolic rate, which in turn can decrease their productivity. In general, noise can influence employees while doing their work and the impact can be both positive and negative. If there is soft background sound, which is coming from instrumental music, and there is an employee who has to tackle claims from some inpatient customers, the background sound in turn, will assist him/her to become more relaxed in solving the customer s problems. In contrast, if the sound background is quite hard, which may develop from the telephone ringing and loud conversation among people in the same room, this situation can hamper both the employee and customers. Improving the office sound can lead to increase on employee productivity. Kelsall (2002) points out that due to the trend of offices in the future being open office and smaller workplaces there will be less space for people in the office. In turn, this can distract and disturb the office environment. Noise-control programs are one alternative that many office managements have applied in order to overcome the noise problems. There are several methods for controlling the noise in the office (Quible 1996): proper contraction, sound-absorbing materials, sound-absorbing devices, and masking . This has been supported by Tom Koenig who argued that there are four systems that can be used in reducing noise in the office: carpet, high performance ceilings, the appropriate systems furniture, and an effective sound masking system , (cited by Smith 2000, p. 413) 2.3. Color Another element of the office environment, which has impact on employee productivity, is color. The majority of workers are only concerned about the physical effect of color, while many of them do not pay more attention to its psychological impact (Quible 1996). In fact, color plays a very important role on the human body, mind, and spirit, because it can impact both productivity and wellness (Baughan-Young 2001).
For some people, different colors can have a different meaning; for example, those who prefer red color means that the people are energetic, aggressive, and brave. Those who like the blue color mean that they are very loyal people or faithful. In the office environments, different colors can also have a different impact, specifically for those involved in particular rooms. Choosing inadequate colors may impact on worker health, such as, eyestrain, headache, and fatigue. However, it is very difficult for Administrative Office Managers to facilitate desirable colors for every worker. Keeling and Kallaus (1996, p.359) have indicated that there are three factors which Administrative Office Managers need to aware of before choosing an appropriate color for the office environment these are: work functions, physical location, and type of emotion desire . Different activities need a different color environment. Activities which need more concentration, such as accounting, will be best with cool color, for instance, blue and green, while some creative work, such as, advertising, software design, and fashion design, will be successful with warm color environments, for example, red and orange (Baughan-Young 2001). Other factors that have to be taken into account of color selection for the office environments, according to Keeling and Kallaus (1996, p.362363) are reflection values of colors, wall and ceiling colors, and furniture and equipment colors . In addition, before making decisions on the color environment Administrative Office Managers also need to consider about ergonomics of color environment that is the relationship between the individual needs and the selection of colors. An intelligent choosing of color environments in turn will enhance creativity, as well as productivity, while at the same time reducing fatigue and other health problems.
2.4. Air Quality The last element of the office environment, which has impact on employee productivity, is air quality. Poor air quality can raise a negative impact on employee health in the form of respiratory problems, headaches, and, fatigue, which in the long periods will reduce productivity. One research published by Bio-Safe Inc., New Braunfels in Texas, found out that indoor air quality in sealed office windows are 10 times more polluted than the outdoor one. Furthermore, some studies taken by JCAHO, discovered that indoor air quality contributed 40% of absenteeism among the workers due to some illnesses, and also, there is an increase in the number of worker s claims on related issues (Gilhooley 2002). Thus, it is very important for the Administrative Office Managers to make sure that the office environment is favorable for those who have to maintain their activities in the office. According to Keeling and Kallaus (1996) and Quible (1996) as well, the air quality contains four factors that are: temperature, humidity, ventilation, and cleanliness. A comfortable office environment is a building or room in which workers can generate their work properly as it clean, with proper range of temperature, enough ventilation, and an adequate humidity.
Today most office buildings are designed with air conditioning systems, so the temperature level in one room can remain constant all the time. However, certain factors should come into consideration in establishing proper temperature level; for instance obese workers will work best with lower temperature levels, whereas the reverse is true for thin workers (Keeling and Kallaus 1996). In addition, Quible (1996) suggests that the best temperature level for work in an office is 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity level of an office environment has affect on the temperature level, and recommended range of humidity level is between 40 and 60% (Quible 1996). An appropriate humidity level may cause some damages to the office environments. Keeling and Kallaus (1996) state that, Too little humidity level may causes magnetic tapes and disks to stick during processing operation, whereas too much humidity, on the other hand, produces condensation on the electronic parts of the equipment and causes shortcircuiting . A study conducted by Washington State University demonstrated that plant transpiration in an office environment could generate a humidity level, which is suitable within the recommended range (Gilhooley 2002). After the temperature level in an office has been set-up properly within the favorable level of humidity, the air in the office still needs to be circulated, otherwise it can increase the temperature, which in turn may cause discomfort (Quible 1996). Air circulation is also essential as it can avoid people inhaling inadequate air. Moreover, smoking must be prohibited in the office. Some small offices still use electric fans to make sure that the air is circulated well (Keeling and Kallaus 1996). Air cleanliness is also becoming one consideration of office management to develop better air quality. Due to technological advances, many devices have been developed to clean the air. These devices clean the air of germs, dust, and dirt (Quible 1996). 2.5. Office Furniture Selecting appropriate office furniture is another consideration in which office managers need to pay more attention to make sure that the ergonomic environment is properly maintained. While ergonomic environment is important in increasing employee productivity, an adjustable office furniture, such as desks and chairs, which can support employees in generating their work is recommended, to allow the work comfortably throughout the day (Burke 2000). In today s world, many manufacturers create and provide various kinds of office furniture. Therefore, for this reason, Administrative Office Management needs to be aware of selecting the office furniture. Keeling and Kallaus (1996) suggest that Administrative Office Managers should be knowledgeable about office furniture. The consequence of selecting improper office furniture may be undertook for a long time, as it is often difficult discarding the pre-owned furniture, which is commonly purchased rather than leased or rented (Quible et al. 2000). Although, Quible et al. point out that there are several factors that need to be considered in obtaining of office furniture: intended use of furniture, appropriateness of furniture in relation to dcor of office, suitability of furniture, versatility of furniture, durability of furniture, hierarchical level of
furniture, size of furniture in relation to room or area size, and fire-retardant value of furniture. Another priority relating to office furniture is taking ergonomics into consideration when office managers are about to obtain office furniture, such as tables, chairs, and desks (Quible et al. 2000). For example, those employees whose jobs require to spend most of their time on the office will really need chairs as well desks, to assist in handling information, to a place of store supplies or to collect data. Hence, Keeling and Kallaus (1996) point out that 75% of the workforce sits while working. According to Burke (2000) chairs should be easily movable so that employees enable to push it back and forth with little effort, and this has been supported by Boe (2002) who cites that employees sitting too low or too high can result in painful strain. 2.6. Office Equipment In addition to the furniture required for the office, a variety of office equipment is available. Office equipment refers to office machines and devices that can be found in the office, such as copier machines, facsimiles, telephones, typewriters, printers, and computers. Keeling and Kallaus (1996, p. 391) point out that office equipment is the intermediary between people and their work . Office equipment allows employees to undertake not only more work, but also less time and better quality, for instance, copier machines help employees in doubling documents in a short time. According to Quible et al. (2000) basically, in procuring office equipment organizations have two options: leasing and purchasing. To those undertaking decision to obtain office equipment whether by leasing or purchasing need to consider about the advantages and disadvantages of both options. While the useful life of office furniture is generally quite long, making its better to purchase than to lease, the same is not necessarily true of office equipment which is susceptible to much daily use and often operating by different people as well as changes in technological advances. In accordance with Cullen (2002) who points out that search for the office machine is not an easy work, because good office machine should meet the needs of those going to operate it. Other important aspects of selecting office equipment include ease to use, cost, dependability, standardization, as well as equipment operator input (Quible et al. 2000, Cullen 2002). Organizations, which fail in obtaining adequate office equipment, may reduce its employee satisfaction that may lead to lower productivity. 3. Conclusion Employees are very important assets that the organization has. A good organisation is one that can nurture its employees. One technique to nurture the employee is by paying attention to the office environment. Many employees spend most of their time on generating activities in the office. Thus, the office environment plays a very important role if the organisation would like to maintain better productivity. There are four factors of the office environment under which it has impact on employee productivity that are: lighting, noise, color, and air quality. All of these factors cannot be treated separately, as they connect with each other. For instance, even though
the lighting system of the office is desirable as it meets employee needs, the noise in the office still has to maintain to ensure that employees can work in favorable sound. An adequate lighting system, noise, color, as well as air quality can impact employees both physically and psychologically, and some health problems that may occur are headaches, as a result of poor lighting system and undesirable noise, respiratory problems as a consequence of poor air quality, fatigue as a result of inappropriate of selecting color, and so forth. In the long term, these problems will impact the financial well being of the organisation. In addition, in order to maintain employee productivity, Administrative Office Managers are recommended to organise the office environment based-on an ergonomically sound office in which all of the office environment aspects can be appropriate for employee.
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