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Enhancing employee productivity by improving your office


Inside old Sift Office

Improving your office environment can be a simple and cost-effective method of positively impacting staff performance. Justin Palmer, managing director at Principio, argues that HR managers may therefore benefit from a more direct role in workplace design and space management.


Given that we invest huge amounts of time and money on our own home environments and regularly tune into home improvement programmes, ensuring our homes are pleasing to the eye and comfortable to live in appears to be a priority for many people.

But it is perhaps more important that our workspace meets our needs both aesthetically and practically, as we spend most of our week at the office. If offered the choice of working in a dull and cramped office environment or a vibrant, well laid-out and colourful office space, there is no doubt that we would all choose the latter.

The design of the work environment can have a huge impact on a company’s culture and can directly affect the morale and motivation of staff. It therefore seems logical for HR managers to get involved in workplace design plans.

Yet such plans are usually handled by senior management or the facilities management department. For many HR professionals, the office environment is not something they would normally consider as their area, and the first they hear of it is when the builders and decorators come in.

However, if HR managers became more involved in the work environment they may be able to exert more influence over employee happiness and productivity. Suggesting office improvements as a new and innovative way of increasing employee satisfaction may also be an opportunity for HR professionals to raise their profile within the organisation.


Turquoise was found to enhance creativity…and red was shown to enhance energy levels.

Even something as simple as ensuring the colour of the walls in each department supports the culture and employees’ job roles within that department can be effective.

For example, a recent survey from Principio showed that the colour scheme of an office can affect the mood and motivation of employees. Turquoise was found to enhance creativity, which suggests it would be an ideal colour for the offices of a marketing team or an advertising agency. And red was shown to enhance energy levels and so would suit the office walls of a sales team.

Yet despite the demand for an increased use of colour in the workplace, 68% of offices in the UK are painted white! If colour really can impact staff performance this seems like a huge wasted opportunity.


I’m not saying that HR professionals should turn into the corporate equivalent of Lawrence Lewellyn-Bowen, but they should be aware of the methods available to help maintain a happy and productive workforce.

And it’s not just changing the colour of your walls that can help enhance employee performance. By reviewing your office layout and making changes to seating plans and desk space, you may be able to enhance employee communication and interaction.

And if you involve your staff in the process, and ask them what changes they would like to see you can ensure you create a space that employees genuinely enjoy being in.

So if your office surroundings are uninspiring, chances are that your organisation’s employees may also be uninspired. Now could therefore be the time to have a rethink of your office space. By working with senior management or facilities management departments, you can enhance your workspace and create an environment which inspires and motivates employees to perform at their best.

3 Responses

  1. Even more impact when people choose their own colours?
    There was an experiment a long time ago in two very similar factories that made thermionic valves! In one the management devised the colour scheme and in the other the employees created their own colour scheme. The productivity and morale of the second factory was consistently higher than the first over several years. This may just be an example of the power of ownership and attntion (the Hawthorne effect) but it is interesting.

    Do any of you know of any recent examples of this approach? Would it work in an office?

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  2. Response to Barbara Babcock’s question
    For training and learning you could use purple – an artistic and creative colour; green which is calming and enables a plateau for learning; blue as it focuses the mind and is the colour of communication; or yellow (just a touch – a bunch of daffodils??) which is the colour of intelligence!

    I would recommend a combination of a light turquoise green and a light blue tinged purple (mauve) – the two colours are contrasting and in the right balance of tone -not too bright and suppressive! This would be calming and would provide the perfect canvas for training the brain!

    Remember less is more so picking out details in these colours in a vivid sense would do the job, whilst not distracting or overloading the brain.

    The other option is to use these colours all over but muted. Its important to have fun-and don’t forget the accessories!

    As the room is for dual use it is vital to get the balance right and whilst it is important in the training situation to feel stimulated and awake, it is also important for dinner attendees to feel relaxed.

    Alert and awake colours do lend themslves not only to the purple(creativity) and turqouise
    (stimulating) but to golden shades of yellow
    and orange, These last two colours if they are of the right tone also lend themselves to an eating/function environment. Yellow is most stimulating to the intellect, but should not be used on every wall.

    It is true that certain shades of orange (terracotta) and turqouise (teal)are very complementary together and so this may be a solution.We must, however, not forget other factors, such as lighting, furniture,
    carpet etc. The environment can also be quickly changed, just by switching off the main
    overhead lights and switching on some softer ambient wall mounted lighting.

  3. Colours for a training room
    Our training room will soon be refurbished and we were wondering which colours are best suited to a training environment. It’s a large room with large windows, but it’s on a lower ground floor, so it doesn’t get tons of natural light. The room is also used for meetings and dinner functions when not being used for training, so we can’t use vibrant colours (turquoise, red, etc.) on the walls. Any thoughts?

    Barbara Babcock

    Barbara Babcock


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