In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about what makes a good environment in which to work. The trends came—open office layouts, rich employee wellness programs, gym perks, nap pods, even laundry services. Even if you don’t work for a tech giant, your company probably has some sort of wellness initiative. And for good reason—healthy employees make happier, more productive employees. But it turns out that some of these efforts were misguided (looking at you, open offices) and downright ineffective. So what do we really want from our work environment? And what elements make up the best workspace?
Thankfully, Harvard did some research, and the results might surprise you. They certainly surprised us. Let’s take a look at what the best workspace is, according to this new research, and dig into some easy ways you can make yours a little better.
The Best Workplace Looks Like This
Harvard researchers surveyed 1,600 employees about the wellness perks that positively impact their productivity. Surprisingly, most people reported that just a few simple things had the greatest effect on their efficiency: natural light, air quality, and the ability to personalize their own space.
- 58% of respondents ranked better air quality as the wellness perk that made the most difference to their productivity
- 50% of respondents chimed in on natural lighting
Being comfortable in your environment is no little thing—it makes a huge difference on the work you’re able to accomplish and how good you feel while you do it.
According to the researchers:
…air quality and light were the biggest influencers of employee performance, happiness, and wellbeing, while fitness facilities and technology-based health tools were the most trivial.Jeanne C. Meister in Survey: What Employees Want Most From Their Workspaces, Harvard Business Review
2 Simple Ways to Build a Better Workspace, No Matter Where You Work
The Harvard article is geared toward employers—what they should be providing to their employees, how to restructure their space, and ideas for allocating their wellness resources to what matters most for their workers. So what does this mean for you, as an employee who might not be in charge of your own workspace?
Luckily, you’re not powerless here.
Just because you’re not the one deciding the floor plan or seating arrangements doesn’t mean you can’t make some simple tweaks to build a better workspace. Whether you work in a private office, coworking space, or your kitchen table (guilty), here are a few ideas.
1. Prioritize natural light
Okay, we’re not all going to have floor-to-ceiling windows to work with. That doesn’t mean we can’t tap into the productivity-boosting power of natural light.
If you can, get some natural light before you get to the office or start working for the day. This might mean taking a 10-minute walk before the day begins or just basking near the window while you eat breakfast at home. Either way, you’ll start off the day feeling better.
From there, think about how you can fit more natural light into your workday. Are there communal spaces close to windows that you can work at for a few hours? What about fitting in an afternoon walk? Can you take a call from a brightly-lit conference room instead of your cube? Any little bit counts.
At the very least, consider investing in a desk lamp that mimics natural light. You can grab one on Amazon, and you might just find they make a difference.
2. Get some fresh air
Half of the employees we surveyed said poor air quality makes them sleepier during the day, and more than a third reported up to an hour in lost productivity as a result.Jeanne C. Meister in Survey: What Employees Want Most From Their Workspaces, Harvard Business Review
When it comes to air quality in your building, there’s not much you can do. So instead, think about improving the amount of fresh air you get on a daily basis.
Much like the first tip, a morning walk before work is a great way to get both fresh air and natural light. Depending on the air quality where you live, you might want to take your morning walk in a park, where trees and plants improve oxygen quality. Besides, spending time in nature is a huge happiness booster.
Throughout the day, prioritize breaks that take you out of stale office air. Walk to grab your lunch or to the coffee shop. Even a few minutes can help.
If you drive to work, consider opening your windows on the commute for an added boost.
One other thing that can really improve your work environment? Plants. Adding just one can affect your happiness, productivity, and we suspect, your air quality too.
To sum it all up…
No matter where you work, you can make small changes to create the best workspace for you. Don’t get too caught up in the details. Instead, focus on the basics—natural light and air quality—and enjoy happier, more productive workdays.
And now, we’re going to take a walk outside. We hope you’ll join us.
Your turn: What’s the best workspace for you? Share what keeps you motivated and happy in your work environment in the comments below.
For more ways to get happier on the job, check out our post on adding more joy to your workday.