Healthy Business Blog

May
20

Key environment tips to improve the productivity and wellbeing of your people

Monday, 20 May 2019 by Matt Johns

Woman petting a dog while working on her laptop, in the office

Woman petting a dog while working on her laptop, in the office

There are multiple factors that collectively create the employee experience. These include direct leadership and communication, indirect systems and processes and the technology employees use to get their work done.

However, one factor that is often ignored, is the physical environment our people work in every day.

To create the most productive working environment requires considered thought and design. There are so many elements that directly affect employees every day. In this article, I  wanted to focus on two contributors that impact the working environment for your people. 

Distraction

In an effort to become hyper productive and always connected, there has been a shift to using tools to “help stay engaged” with other employees. Tools like Yammer, Chatter and Slack have become increasingly popular. But they come with a catch – they make it almost impossible for employees to concentrate for even short periods of time. As Associate Professor Cal Newport highlighted in his book Deep Work, these new tools may actually be hindering our ability to concentrate and complete high quality work. The impact on both stress and anxiety can be telling. 

To try and lessen the impact on your team, consider how you might reduce the dependence on these kinds of tools and provide space for your people to focus, think clearly and concentrate. Maybe allow your team to unplug or go offline when they need to really focus.

Another direct contributor to distraction is noise. Like it or not, modern workplaces generate a lot of noise. Whilst some noise can result in a kind of rhythmic vibe similar to a café, often the noise can have a direct impact on individual employees trying their best to get their work done.

To reduce the impact, consider creating dedicated quiet spaces where your people can take their work to focus on for extended periods of time. If this is not so easy in your working space, try implementing set quiet times. Dedicated times when your team know not to interrupt or make loud noises. Collaboration can still work before or after these times. 

Nature

Biologist and naturalist Edward Wilson’s research suggests human beings possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature, yet many of our modern workplaces have little more that a token pot plant1.

With modern workers spending prolonged periods of their working days indoors it is important to consider how to reconnect with nature for both the wellbeing of employees and for increased productivity. Consider how you might more generously incorporate nature into the workplace through plants and large images of nature including trees, mountains, rivers and the ocean.

It is also worth considering how much natural light your team are exposed to because natural light is known to have a direct impact on productivity. Research by Cornell University Professor Alan Hedge found that workers in offices with natural daylight reported an 84% decrease in symptoms of headaches, eye strain, and blurred vision .

One surprisingly powerful factor that directly contributes to a sense of wellbeing in the workplace is the inclusion of dogs in working spaces. 

As UK research shows, the case for allowing employees to bring a dog to work appears to be ever more compelling. There are suggestions that dogs can have a positive social impact on humans due to the sense of unconditional love they offer simply sitting beside you. Dogs also encourage moderate frequent exercise, which is known to impact health and wellbeing. 

Interestingly, research also suggests having dogs in the workplace can reduce stress. Simply stroking or patting a dog can reduce blood pressure and put people in a more relaxed psychological state2.

One business that has witnessed first hand the benefits of bringing dogs into the workplace is successful social enterprise, Eat My Lunch. 

As CEO Lisa King explains, “bringing the dogs into the workplaces has actually brought the wider team together”. They found that employees from the kitchen (where dogs are not allowed for health and safety reasons), would often finish their shift and make their way up to the office to spend time with the dogs. 

So, if you are considering how to increase productivity whilst improving the wellbeing of your people, why not try allowing dogs into your working spaces? Southern Cross’ recent poll indicated many of our business customers are also in favour, with 57% voting ‘yes’ for pets at work.

Your people will love you for it.

Matt Johns, Deliberat
Matt uses his diverse experience as a trained undercover police officer and as the former Chief Strategy Officer at Deloitte to help businesses design better employee experiences to drive business growth. Having worked in experience design and strategy for over a decade, Matt has worked with organisations across the world connecting business strategy with deliberately designed customer and employee experience strategy. 


  1. Gullone, Eleonora. “The Biophilia Hypothesis and Life in the 21st Century: Increasing Mental Health or Increasing Pathology?” Journal of Happiness Studies, vol. 1, no. 3, 15 June 2000, pp. 293–322., doi:10.1023/a:1010043827986.
  2. Allen K.M., Blascovich J., Mendes W.B. Cardiovascular reactivity and the presence of pets, friends, and spouses: The truth about cats and dogs. Psychosom. Med. 2002;64:727–739. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]