Cubicle walls. Chairs that swivel. Corkboards copiously pinned with memos to-do lists. You see these things on a daily basis, and you’re sick of them. If you’re lucky enough to have your own office, maybe there’s more space to make it your own. Yet that’s not the reality for most employees (and even some employers).

Day in, day out, their physical environment in the office doesn’t change much. HR might put a potted plant along the corridor occasionally, but that’s as good as it gets. A 2015 survey conducted by CareerBuilder Singapore listed a comfortable work environment as one of the main reasons for an applicant’s career choice, alongside popular reasons such as higher salaries and attractive benefits.

The advantages of having a conducive and comfortable physical environment to work in are highly overlooked. Of course, it can cost quite a bit of money to create one, but you don’t need expensive furnishings or elaborate renovation works to make your office conducive for you and your employees. We highlight three simple, cost-effective ways to enhance your physical environment in the office.

It’s always sunny in… Singapore

With the sweltering heat outside, the office can be a cool sanctuary for you and your employees. Too warm, and the discomfort from perspiration can be distracting and annoying. Too cold, and your employees won’t be able to type with frozen fingers. A study conducted by the Energy Research Institute@NTU revealed that the ideal temperature for a conducive work environment ranges from 22.5 to 25.5 deg C, along with a relative air humidity of roughly 60 per cent.

It’s always tempting to keep the temperature as low as your budget allows, but keep in mind that every degree you raise, your electricity bill at the end of the month drops between 5 to 15 per cent. A safe bet would be to always keep it at a cool 25 degrees, where it’s not cold enough to wrap yourself up in blankets, and not warm enough to start feeling sticky. Besides, keeping it at a regulated temperature ensures that your utility bill doesn’t skyrocket – it’s easy on the body and on your pocket too.

Keeping it clean

No one wants to work in a dusty, unsanitary office. While the onus is on the individual to keep his or her workstation clean, the overall hygiene of the office can easily be enhanced with cost-effective solutions. Consider investing in air purifiers that can be placed anywhere with a power socket nearby. They can be easily obtained at most supermarkets, and a few drops of scented essential oils can go a long way. Scents such as lemon, lavender, jasmine, and rosemary have been proven to help in enhancing concentration, relieving stress, and revitalising the individual. They are a much cheaper and healthier alternative to automatic perfumed sprays that many offices have at random corners. Aromatherapy may not be the first thought that comes to mind when you’re considering improving the physical environment, but it definitely promises results.

If your office is carpeted, you run the risk of having trapped dust and stains from spilled coffee and tea. Insist that the cleaning company you hire disinfects the carpet at least once a week. Having a cleaner carpet would mean fewer allergies acting up, and therefore less people falling ill at work.

Otherwise, setting an expectation to have your employees clean up their desks every two weeks would be a good practice to have around the office. A tidy desk can drastically improve moods, and it costs literally nothing.

Create safe spaces

While it’s not realistic to overhaul your entire office just create a more conducive physical environment, it is still possible to do so without much of a hassle. For example, some offices have rooms that are dedicated to having small discussions, or private phone conversations. These spaces can be helpful when employees need to discuss something personal or intimate with you. If your office doesn’t have one, consider converting a smaller meeting room into one of these safe spaces. Employees can have a brief respite in those spaces, and will definitely help in their emotional health.

If you have the luxury of having an outdoor space in your office, you could also consider placing a few tables and chairs there. Casual meetings or conversations could be held outdoors, and it would be a fantastic alternative to the cold and often clammy office environment that you and your employees spend most of the day in.

For the more senior personnel who have their own offices, you might want to promote an open door policy in order to make the employees feel more welcomed. It’s understandable that some people may prefer the quietness of having their office door closed, but doing so may alienate the employees. It doesn’t have to be open all the time, but having it open helps to create a more approachable climate around the office. After all, you wouldn’t want your employees to fear you.

The average office worker spends more than eight hours at the office every workday. With that amount of time spent there, it’s important to make the office feel pleasant and welcoming. Not every company has the money to build offices like the ones you see at Google and Facebook, but as we’ve shown you above, it doesn’t cost much to make your office feel just a little more homely and comfortable. Keeping your employees’ physical and mental health in mind reflects well on you as a boss, and also boosts creativity and productivity. If the office is due for renovations, feel free to go bigger in terms of creating a layout that maximises productivity. Otherwise, try out our cost-effective tricks and see if there are changes to the way work is being done in your office. You might be surprised!

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