Designing a comfortable office work environment is about more than just aesthetics. After all, your employees may spend more time in your offices than they do just about anywhere else – including in their own homes.
Hence, a recent Inc. Magazine article by Lois Goodell, a principal and the director of interior design at CBT Architects, is well worth reading as it is packed full of tips about how to design a productive office work environment. Some of the useful office design tips she gave included the following:
- Heating and Lighting: Temperature and lighting can be the biggest complaints by office workers. And while lighting is easier to address through proper fit-out design, Goodell noted that tenants will need to ask the landlord and other tenants in the building a few key questions before signing a lease to determine just how much control they will have over temperature.
- Open vs. Closed Space: Open space floor plans are designed to encourage collaboration, but Goodell pointed out that such a layout may not be the best design when employees need to concentrate on an important task or project. One possible solution to this problem is “hoteling” where more private offices can be reserved or used when needed.
- Flexibility: Flexible office space designs are more productive than fixed office space designs. Hence, Goodell suggested having workspaces of a common size with interchangeable components that can then be easily customised to the specific needs of a particular user.
- Sustainability: Besides being environmentally friendly, Goodell noted that offices designed with sustainability in mind will also improve the comfort of office workers inside.
- Ergonomic Design: Working with an ergonomic design consultant can actually save you money as ergonomically designed furniture and workspaces will reduce the number of days your employees are absent and lost productivity due to discomfort. At a minimum, Goodell suggested surveying employees to find out what they need to be comfortable.
- Technology: Modern Wi-Fi technology means that the design of your office no longer needs to be dictated by technology and connectivity to network outlets. (HP currently has a special offer that gives you a free access to more than 7,500 Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK and a free Vodafone 3G USB Modem Stick – together worth £150 – when you buy a new HP EliteBook or ProBook – see www.hpultimateconnectivity.com)
Goodell concluded by writing that an office space will (and should) reflect your company’s personality and culture and this “personality” can easily be tweaked as often as you like as your company evolves over time – important points worth considering.
For more advice on increasing productivity, check out the articles on the main HP Business Answers website.
- Remember the Milk is a task manager that’ll straighten out your to-do list. Add jobs in seconds, get reminders by email and prioritise clearly, so you know what to do first.
You could also try: Toodledo.
- Dropbox is an elegant way to back up your important data and share files with other people. It keeps files up-to-date on all your computers too.
You could also try: Windows Live Sync.
- RescueTime tracks exactly what you do, every minute you’re on your computer. If its comprehensive reports don’t help you pinpoint and eliminate distractions, nothing will.
You could also try: ManicTime.
- TimeBridge helps you schedule meetings with people who don’t have a shared calendar. Your attendees indicate their preferred times, then TimeBridge finds a good slot for everyone.
You could also try: Doodle.
- Evernote lets you keep notes and interesting things you see online. You can enter text, grab images and clip information from websites. Evernote keeps it safe and organised.
You could also try: toread.
- Writer is perfect when you have to get something written. It emulates an old-skool green screen text editor, with no modern distractions. For the full effect, hit F11 to go full-screen.
You could also try: Dark Room.
- Picnik gives you a fast, easy way to crop, resize and edit photos. It’s ideal if you need to edit a picture before publishing it on your website or blog.
You could also try: FotoFlexer.
- Basecamp helps you manage projects and coordinate work with other people. It’s really useful when several people are working on a project from different places.
You could also try: Huddle.
- HP Business Answers contains dozens of articles to help you deal with business IT challenges. There’s also an interactive IT advisor and an IT Agony Aunt to answer your questions.
You could also try: Business Link
Finally, don’t forget that the equipment you work with can influence your productivity too. Using these tools with the right computer could give you even more of a boost.
Here are some tips that will help you get more done every day.
- Keep track of all your tasks in one place. Master your to-do list with something as simple as a stack of index cards or something as powerful as Microsoft Outlook 2007.
- Access your files anywhere with Microsoft's Live Sync.
- Go wireless. Wireless networks are great for growing businesses. You can connect computers to the network and the internet without expensive fixed cabling.
- Go wireless (faster). The latest wireless networking standard, known as 802.11n or Wireless-N, lets you connect to compatible networks up to five times faster and with up to twice the range.
- Go paperless. Save paper: don't print unnecessary documents and emails. Save space and filing time: scan documents rather than photocopy them.
- Tablet PC. HP tablet PCs let you take handwritten notes and convert them into printed text automatically. It's great for meetings.
- Concentrate. It takes time to build up concentration. Every interruption restarts the clock, wasting productive time. So cut down distractions, use noise-cancelling headphones and try to complete one job before starting the next or taking a break.
- Do one thing at a time. Research shows that people who focus on one thing at a time get more done than people who try to multitask by juggling several activities at once.
- Bigger batteries. With HP Extended Life Batteries and certain HP notebooks you can get up to 24 hours use from a single charge1.
1. Requires separately purchased Ultra Capacity Battery and customer download of the latest Intel graphics driver and HP BIOS. Notebook must be configured with optional Intel 80 GB SSD drive and HP Illumi-Lite LED Display and requires Microsoft Windows® XP operating system. Battery life will vary depending on the product model, configuration, loaded applications, features, and power management settings. The maximum capacity of the battery will decrease with time and usage.
We think you should be running the latest computers in your business. Well, we would say that, wouldn't we? However, Intel have recently published a report (attached to this post as a PDF file) that sets out the real-world financial and practical benefits of having more modern computers in your business.
Because of the recession, companies have held back on buying new computers. As a result, says Intel, nearly 40 percent of the PCs in small businesses are more than three years old. This means that companies are missing out on productivity, security and energy-efficiency benefits of more modern computers.
Fred Wilson, a VC with Union Square Ventures and the blogger behind the AVC musings of a VC in NYC blog, has recently written about how to solve an all too familiar problem – too much email. Like many, Wilson has a love-hate relationship with email – as much as he hates it, he just can’t function without it. However, the more efficient he got with email, the more email he would receive. In fact, his inbox was recently inundated with 1,200 unread emails and after three hours on a Sunday night, he had reduced the number to only 800 before completely giving up and declaring what he referred to as “email bankruptcy.”
How did he declare email bankruptcy? First, Wilson figured out that he had a list of about thirty people who he emails on a regular basis and these are his most important relationships. He then used two web services, Gist and Etacts, to tell him just who these people are and then did gmail searches on their names to make sure that he has no unread and unarchived emails from them. Finally, once he made sure that he has read and answered all emails from his thirty most important email relationships, he selected all and hit the archive button. Problem solved.
Of course, there is one problem with Wilson declaring email bankruptcy: If you are not on Wilson’s list of thirty key relationships and you have sent him an email recently, you might want to send him another one, as he has probably not seen it.