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10 Signs of a Healthy, Productive Office

Updated on October 18, 2016
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Sally Hayes is a business communications coach who teaches speaking and leadership skills to adults in the midst of a career change.

You'll likely be spending many hours at work. Here are some things to consider when you assess whether or not your prospective employer's work environment can meet your basic needs for comfort, cleanliness, and safety.

Are you comfortable working in an open concept office?

Some people thrive in offices with wide open spaces and few walls. Others find the lack of clear boundaries between work spaces distracting.
Some people thrive in offices with wide open spaces and few walls. Others find the lack of clear boundaries between work spaces distracting.

Are open concept offices as productive and efficient as everyone says they are? Perhaps not. Recent studies have countered the popular wisdom that working without walls fosters and more creative, energized workplace.

1. Accessibility. Does the office environment comply with accessibility building codes? Are all employees and customers given equal access to the workplace? If you don’t have a disability that affects your mobility, whether or not the building is wheelchair accessible may not be something that you notice right away. But consider this: anyone’s life situation can change. You may not need an accessible office now but if an injury or illness were to impact your mobility, how accommodating do you think that office will be to addressing your needs? Furthermore, if a company is not open to creating an accessible work environment, it is limiting the job opportunities available to people with disabilities. I believe that diversity and inclusiveness are integral parts of a healthy, productive work environment.

2. Environmental Health and Wellness. Does the temperature feel right in this office? Is there good airflow? Do the windows open to let in fresh air? How about natural lighting? The air you breathe, the temperature of your office, and the light that illuminates your desk can all have a positive or negative impact on your productivity and how you feel at work.

3. Individual Workspaces: Are people given the freedom and flexibility to decorate and personalize their individual workspaces? As you take a glance through the office at the beginning or end of the interview, what do you see? Is everyone working with their heads down, nose to the grindstone in cold, cookie-cutter cubicles? Or are people able to interact freely and express themselves (within reason) through small flourishes of color and decorative touches in their workspaces?

"I like what you've done to the place!"

How important is it to you to be able to personalize your workspace with pictures and mementos?
How important is it to you to be able to personalize your workspace with pictures and mementos?

4. Visual Cues and Messages. As you tour the office, take note of any images, signs, or slogans that might make you feel unsafe in the workplace. Sexist, racist, and derogatory jokes, posters, and signs are inappropriate in the workplace---or anywhere for that matter! If employees are allowed to post crude and offensive images at their desks, management likely has little regard for the impact this has on women and marginalized groups.

5. Curb Appeal: How well does the company take care of its exterior appearance? Is the building maintained properly? Would you feel proud to bring friends and family to the office?

6. Outdoor Spaces: Are there any pleasant, smoke-free areas outside your office? Will you be able to talk a brisk, refreshing walk outside if things get a little stressful at work?

7. Public Transit and Parking. If you take transit to work, will you feel comfortable using it to and from the office after dark or early in the morning? If you drive to work, will you be able to park in a location that is affordable and relatively close to the building? Your health and well-being at work aren't confined to your working hours. If your commute is going to be unsafe and stressful, that can take a toll on your health and productivity.

8. Privacy and security. If your front door at home didn’t lock, would you feel safe? Would you ever leave your purse out on the front porch? If the answer is ‘no’ to these questions, then why would you tolerate the same lack of security at work. Employees should be given a safe space---such as a locking desk drawer or cabinet---to put purses, bags, and other personal items at work. The company should also have clear policies about security, particularly after hours or when staff are working alone.

9. Cleanliness and Hygiene: Are the bathrooms clean and tidy? Do they have basic amenities such as soap dispensers, paper towels and/or hand dryers, and sanitized sinks and toilets? Is the bathroom accessible for people with disabilities? If the company management doesn’t think maintaining a clean, functional bathroom for the comfort of its employees is a priority, what other health and safety issues are they willing to neglect? The same goes for the lunchroom. Let's hope the lunchroom isn't a gross mess no one takes responsibility for. Who needs the added stress of dealing with other people's sloppy habits?

You have a right to a clean, safe, and accessible restroom in your workplace. Don't underestimate how important it is to have  well-maintained, hygienic bathroom facilities.
You have a right to a clean, safe, and accessible restroom in your workplace. Don't underestimate how important it is to have well-maintained, hygienic bathroom facilities.

10. Location! Location! Location! Either before or after you arrive for your job interview, take a look around the neighborhood. Does it include useful shops, restaurants and services that will come in handy when you need to run errands on your lunch break? Or is the office located in a lonely wasteland of a neighborhood with no sense of community or safe spaces to stroll and socialize on your breaks?

(Image source: Pixabay.com)

Does the office layout have space for people to socialize with one another during their lunch and coffee breaks?
Does the office layout have space for people to socialize with one another during their lunch and coffee breaks?

Your prospective employer might not be able to score a perfect 10 out of 10 when you assess the office against this list of healthy environmental determinants. You may decide that you can live with some inconveniences while other issues will be deal-breakers if they can’t be satisfactorily remedied. And let's face it: you may want or need the job so badly that you don’t have the luxury to pick and chose which of these issues matters the most. But by being more aware of what to look for when deciding if a job is right for you, you’ll be able to accept or refuse employment offers with eyes wide open.

Poll: Your Ideal Office Layout

What type of office space do you feel most comfortable working in?

See results

© 2016 Sally Hayes

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