The modern workplace is nothing like the cubicle farm of old. Employers are ditching the rows of dividers, fluorescent lights, and stiff office chairs for a new kind of workspace. This new office is comfortable, ergonomic, and designed to improve the workplace experience and productivity in novel new ways.
Find out what sort of changes cutting edge managers are making and why the new office looks like something out of a science fiction movie.
Innovative Seating Solutions
Here’s how office work used to play out: you show up in the morning and sit at your desk all day until it’s time to go home. However, in a move that seems baffling to those unfamiliar with modern trends and ergonomics, some offices are ditching chairs altogether. Other more modest managers are giving employees options — work some of the time sitting down, some of it standing, and maybe even a little on the move.
Some doctors have declared that “sitting is the new smoking.” The reasoning is that sitting has a number of hidden adverse side effect and, as was once the case with smoking, sitting is such a crucial part of our everyday lives that hardly anyone would suspect it as a culprit for malaise. Studies have shown that people who spend more time sitting in their days have a shorter lifespan than those who sit less.
Explanations for this discrepancy vary but, at the root of things, it seems that sitting can both keep you from fitness opportunities and cause posture-related problems by contorting your body in unhealthy ways.
In response to this discovery, forward-thinking managers are adopting new trends for their employees. Standing desks let employees work standing up. This helps them stay in better shape and has been shown to make employees more productive.
Shining a Light on Office Morale
An office can live or die by employee morale. People who are in good spirits — whether because they love the work, or their lives outside the office are going well — make for a stronger resource for any company. This isn’t news to any manager, but what might surprise you is that there are some unusual tricks that offices can employ to boost worker morale.
One of the most surprising has to do with lighting. The traditional American workspace involves a tightly-locked cubicle formation lit by the searing light of a fluorescent bulb. Windows and sunlight have typically been reserved for upper management and executives. Now that trend is changing. More and more rank-and-file employees are getting access to sunlight and they’re better off for it.
Studies have shown that employees who get more sunlight during work hours feel less stress at work. We all know that stress is bad news for productivity.
In the business world, one size does not fit all. Managers are beginning to recognize that different niches demand different ways of running. This goes beyond having domain-specific knowledge or hooking employees up with the tools particular to their niche. Today’s managers are looking at ways to change the layout of their offices in order to fit exactly what their particular company needs.
This kind of change is especially prevalent for people whose work situations require spending a long time in one place. Jobs centered around control rooms are seeing furniture upgrades to respond to the needs of employees who need to stay put for many hours at a time.
Elsewhere, such as in the tech industry, managers are recognizing the benefits of incentivizing collaboration. Many tech companies, such as Google and Facebook, are diving into the trend of open offices — offices without any dividers between employees. The hope is that employees will be more likely to collaborate with one another on problems in their work, creating a better final product – although there are some schools of thought that think open plan offices harm productivity!
Outside the Office
While there are many changes that can be instituted in the office to make employees more comfortable and more productive, there is also a lot that companies can offer outside of work to improve the lives of their workforces. The University of Southern California recommends assisting employees with things like free wellness screenings and company-paid gym memberships. The idea is that such perks will produce a healthier – and more productive – workforce at minimal cost to the company.
We are entering a new age of work. Science has told us what does and doesn’t work about American offices and it’s time for managers to respond. The modern workplace must strive to make its denizens healthier and more comfortable in their jobs. Changes to this end will improve productivity and benefit both companies and their employees in the long run.
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