Well being: How sleep and room temperature are connected to productivity

A new study has found that simple design changes to the workplace such as reducing clutter, a nice view and choosing the optimum AC temeperature can dramatically boost employee performance.

Perkins+Will’s Diane Thorsen says “spaces need to be designed so that daylight is taken into account”. Courtesy Perkins+Will
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Fancy a nap at work today? Then go ahead. Or perhaps you’re feeling a little cold? Then adjust the AC.

Research has found that your whole team might benefit as a result.

A paper, called Wellness by Design, by the global architects Perkins+Will and The Total Office, a company based in the UAE specialising in environmentally friendly workspaces, showed how simple design changes can improve performance and increase employee satisfaction.

The study is based on research from the US wellness company Habits at Work, which found that redesigning the work environment can increase employee performance by up to 22 per cent.

Maintaining the room temperature between 19 to 24 degrees offers a 20 to 50 per cent performance increase. And reducing clutter and untidiness leads to a 150 per cent improvement in the persistency of tasks.

Those who sleep seven to eight hours a night are twice as creative as those who get less, according to the report. But having a short sleep in the day can also be beneficial. The report includes findings by Nasa, which suggests a 26-minute nap can boost productivity by 34 per cent and alertness by up to 100 per cent.

Having access to daylight and windows that can open will also increase productivity, by about 18 per cent, according to the research.

“Our body rhythms work in a circadian fashion and so what we need to do is work with natural rhythms of daylight,” says Diane Thorsen, Perkins+Will’s principal design director for the Middle East. “Spaces need to be designed so that daylight is taken into account, especially in this region, [where] we live inside.”

Having a view of something green would also be good, adds Hanlie van Wyk, head of applied behavioural research and habit change at Habits at Work.

Richard Fenne, principal for the Middle East with Woods Bagot and committee member of the Middle East Council for Offices says the council’s own research reached similar conclusions including the damaging effects of office noise such as unanswered phones and background speech.

“We found 40 per cent of respondents suffered negatively from noise disturbance and significantly, 51 per cent said their work was seriously impacted by interruptions,” he says. “We always assume people like open plan offices [but] open plan offices can make it harder from an acoustic perspective.”

Q&A: Richard Fenne, a committee member of the Middle East Council for Offices

How does the Meco assess the office market in the region?

It is still developing. Fundamentally we have identified that there is a lack of what we call internationally Grade A commercial office space. Saying that, it is improving. There have been a number of new office buildings that have come into the market in the last couple of years which have gone some way to addressing that. But real institutional quality office buildings are in demand in the Middle East, in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.

How have you helped address this issue?

We have produced a best practice guide to try to help all of the key stakeholders in that market to think a bit more about producing better quality developments. So it is not only designers but it is developer clients, end users.

What is a Grade A office and how is it better?

Generally it will be efficiently designed. They are cognizant of occupants’ needs, so they have good air quality; they have good access to daylight and views. Importantly they are also flexible so they are able to give developers and landlords flexibility in terms of subdividing the spaces. Also they are more sustainable because they are inherently flexible, because they are well designed and they are well maintained by a facilities management perspective. They are better buildings, long-life buildings.


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