Influence of One’s Environment on Productivity

A desk top with a laptop, notebook, pen.

Written by: Sam Dabir, 1st Year Med-Sci
Photo credit: Ian Dooley, Unsplash

Often, productivity is associated with topics such as value and time; those who define its meaning frequently discuss the utilization of one's time. While its definition is not subjective, many people view productivity in their own way. Most mistakenly associate being productive with "just doing work." However, in order to be productive, one must do their work in a minimal amount of time. Charles Duhigg defines productivity as "making certain choices in certain ways that moves us from being merely busy to genuinely productive"(Duhigg, 2016). Productivity is essentially an "optimal" state of mind, where one makes the most effective use of their time. A person who can effectively work for 3 dedicated hours with minimal distractions can have a higher output than an individual who will work for 5 hours without the intent to be productive; being in a state of productivity means one’s attitude will change from "I need to complete my work" to "I want to complete my work." This attitude can be influenced by physical factors such as exercise, more sleep, and a healthy diet. However, the majority of motivation will come from uncontrollable factors such as personality, natural ability, and even luck. The strongest factor that can be controlled is one’s office environment since it nurtures both well-being and a sense of belonging that both enhance one’s productivity.

The majority of one’s work will be completed in the same environment, whether it's an office or a bedroom. Physical environments have been proven to influence well-being and directly influence productivity. Those who are most satisfied by their physical environment will be more motivated and, subsequently, more productive. From a neuroscience standpoint, there have been numerous studies dedicated to identifying which neurochemicals influence this ‘optimal’ state. The three main neurochemicals identified were dopamine, noradrenaline, and acetylcholine (Choate, 2018). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that releases a reward or threat response in the brain that motivates human behavior (Choate, 2018). Neuroscience research shows that employees work more efficiently, are more motivated, and achieve higher levels of performance when the work environment includes rewards and does not pose threats (Choate, 2018). A stressed out brain cannot think creatively, work collaboratively, or solve problems effectively. In this type of negative state, employee motivation and performance will be adversely impacted. Therefore, environmental factors that create extra stress in the brain decrease the productivity of an individual.

One of the most influential factors of productivity is color —a visual phenomenon triggered by the response to the stimulation of light (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011). It pervades every aspect of one’s life and embellishes the ordinary and gives beauty and drama to everyday objects. Color influences not only mood but also wellness and productivity (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011). Some colors provide calmness, others provide comfort, and some are stimulating. Therefore, each job will be suited to different color schemes (Kamaruzzaman & Zawawi, 2010). Individuals that require great concentration seek a neutral color scheme as it calms the brain. While others would perform best in an exciting and energetic color scheme with great contrast value. The color scheme chosen for a workplace or an office must be made with proper consideration to produce better quality of work. For instance, a blue workspace is ideal for someone who has to concentrate on statistics, as the color induces a sense of calmness and serenity (O'Brien, 2003). Those who work in communications or sales might benefit from a yellow color scheme, as it evokes a sense of happiness (Cherry, 2022). One may experience negative psychological effects including stress, depression, dullness, or boredom if unsuitable colors are used (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011). Therefore, choosing a color scheme is vital to productivity and overall happiness.

An aspect of the workplace environment that contributes to such behavior and productivity is the layout of an office space and the atmosphere of a set office. Open-plan designs refer to offices with individual workstations placed within an open space; however, these spaces are often shared with several people. Open-plan offices have improved social interaction and elevated aesthetic norms (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011). However, open-plan offices have been shown to exacerbate—researchers have reported problems with open offices from the perspective of occupants, such as noise, lack of privacy, and other distractions due to the increase in social activity (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011). Recent studies have found a direct correlation between higher productivity and less noise (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011). Similar research noted a connection between noisy environments and work that is more prone to errors, confirming the notion that unwanted noise will reduce productivity and efficiency. Additionally, studies have found that open office noise can be stressful and demotivating. Individuals will experience much louder noises in an open-plan office, potentially leading to an overwhelming sensation (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011). Everyone has their own personal space, which, when violated, leads them to feel crowded and uncomfortable (Hall, 1966). Therefore, the layout of one’s office is essential for reducing stress and subsequently, increasing productivity. 

Another component of an office space that affects productivity is temperature; multiple studies have reported that indoor climate impacts both health and performance, which in turn affects productivity (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011). Individuals suggest that their workspace seems to be more comfortable after the air conditioning system was installed, and productivity typically rises by 5 to 15% as a result of their improved ability to focus (Vischer,1989). As a result, a study of the literature by other researchers shows that production declines by 2% for every degree above 25 degrees Celsius and establishes a connection between a decline in productivity and high interior temperatures (Kamarulzaman et al., 2011).

It has become abundantly clear during the pandemic that one's workplace has a big impact on their attitude, behaviors, happiness, and productivity. Many are now compelled to work from home, making use of any available space. Productivity has been heavily affected by the increase of distractions in one’s home compared to their office. Due to a demotivating work atmosphere, many people have begun to have lowered efficiency and productivity. Through comprehensive research, scientists have begun to provide methods for individuals to return to their “optimal” state of efficiency and remove any post-pandemic effects. When creating a productive work environment, color, layout, and temperature should all be taken into account. Now, consider your own work environment – maybe it's time for a refresh to create a space that truly motivates your best work.



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