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Is Your Office Space Making You Depressed? 5 Ways Environment Affects Productivity

Meredith Wood
Oct 03, 2017

If you want to get a leg up on the competition, consider your office environment.

There are plenty of things for candidates to consider in the midst of job hunting.

Salary, benefits and managerial structure are obvious ones. But what about the office space itself? How many times do we go in for an interview and overlook what’s staring us directly in the face?

Studies have shown over and over again that the office environment has a measurable impact on employee satisfaction and productivity. The 2016 Gensler Workplace Survey even found that aspects of the physical workspace drive not only productivity but innovation as well.

If you want to get a leg up on the competition, what factors should you consider when evaluating your office environment for ways to boost employee performance?

1. Color

Let’s face it – most offices are drab. The standard wall palette ranges from eggshell to ecru, maybe with a hint of gray thrown in for good measure. While you don’t want to go crazy painting every wall traffic-cone orange, bringing a little color into your space can make a big difference in how your employees feel about coming to work every day.

Aiming to create a sense of calm? Look to Mother Nature for inspiration and go with shades of blue and green. Need to stoke creativity? An optimistic yellow might be in order. Finding the right balance of hues for your particular workforce’s needs is key.

2. Lighting

A particular problem in the case of cubicle-centric workplaces is the abundance of artificial light. Spending eight hours a day being bathed in fluorescent light, far from any windows, is a recipe for depression and listlessness. And, as it turns out, the effects extend far beyond the office.

Studies have shown that lack of natural light exposure in office environments can lead to employees suffering from abnormal sleep activity. Lack of exposure to sunlight disturbs the body’s circadian rhythms and can result in a workforce that is perpetually tired and sluggish.

3. Noise

Working in a communal space ensures that, unfortunately, complete silence is a rare occurrence. While some employees are affected more strongly by the presence of background noise – studies show that introverts suffer more ill effects than extroverts, for instance – the simple reality is that a noisy work environment leads to an overall decline in productivity.

Popping on headphones to listen to music doesn’t totally mitigate this, as even that has been shown to impair mental acuity. Possible fixes for noise issues could include providing noise-canceling headphones to your employees, installing white noise machines around the office, or instituting and enforcing daily quiet hours.

4. Privacy

Open-office floor plans have been all the rage for years now. The initial thought behind them was that they would remove the feeling of separation between management and staff and encourage a more dynamic and collaborative work environment.

While those benefits can certainly arise from implementing an open floor plan, the unavoidable reality is that they create a distinct lack of privacy. This absence of personal space not only interrupts employees’ focus, but can also make them feel like they’re constantly being monitored by management. The best way to address these privacy concerns leads us to our final factor.


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5. Flexibility

The best way to achieve harmony in your office space is really to create multiple spaces in one. A block of cubicles won’t fit everyone’s work style, nor will a totally open floor plan. Giving your staff a variety of spaces in which to move throughout their workday, depending on their needs, will show them that you’re paying attention to how the environment affects them and responding to that. 

Building open collaboration areas along with cubicles, conference rooms, co-working spaces and social areas means your employees can tailor their physical surroundings to the job they need to do in that moment, providing cognitive support and giving them the tools to always do their best work.

Whether you’re starting a business or just want to improve working conditions for your existing employees, it’s vital that you recognize how impactful office environment really is. Buying a few cans of paint and doing some rearranging can transform your space from a place they dread into a place where they’re happy and thriving.


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Meredith Wood
Meredith Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. Meredith is a resident Finance Advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more. Learn more at