Small adjustments in the company may boost employees’ well-being and performance: researchers identified what needs to be changed


For the company’s performance and employee motivation to be good, researchers advise paying more attention to the physical environment in which employees spend their working hours. Researchers from the ISM Management and Economics, East Anglia, and Liverpool Universities found that the physical environment can affect employees both positively and negatively. Therefore, if the team’s energy seems rather depleted, changes in the environment can help improve the situation.


An extensive review of the scientific literature showed that to ensure a good atmosphere at work, it is not enough to maintain good relationship with colleagues and managers; or take care of the work specifics. Organizations that are increasingly paying more and more attention to the well-being of employees are also encouraged to engage their employees in the decision-making on the company’s physical work environment. ISM researchers Rūta Kazlauskaitė, Ieva Martinaitytė, and Ieva Augutytė-Kvedaravičienė and the researcher from University of Liverpool, Joanne Lyubovnikova, who conducted the scientific literature review, note that the physical work environment can both motivate employees to work better, stimulate their creativity and foster loyalty to the company, and, on the contrary, worsen their well-being and performance.


“Companies need to find out what prevents employees from completing their tasks and what kind of environment would motivate and energize them, because the employee performance can also depend on their physical work environment. Today, organizations try to offer something that their competitors do not have, but that doesn’t necessarily motivate employees, and not all of them may use these perks. Does every employee really need a functional table with adjustable height? Are employees really going to use the company’s gym on a regular basis? In order to find answers to these questions, the company should involve its employees in the development of the work environment before investing in changes that are often costly”, emphasizes prof. Kazlauskaitė.


Rūta Kazlauskaitė


In their work, the researchers distinguished three functions of the physical work environment. The instrumental function refers to the suitability of work conditions for task performance. If such conditions are not ensured, employees will experience functional discomfort, which will then lead to adverse emotional reactions and complicate cognitive processes and will have a negative impact on both their well-being and performance. The aesthetic function is primarily related to the stimulation of pleasant sensory experiences. An aesthetically pleasing environment may energize employees, which will then allow them to focus on tasks and relax, and stimulates positive emotions. Through its symbolic function, the physical work environment creates associations, fosters attachment, and contributes to making one’s work meaningful. Accordingly, the work environment may signal the organization’s concern for employees, inspire their loyalty and provide conditions for their self-expression, which will have a positive effect on their well-being and performance.


Open workspaces have become an object of heated discussion (open spaces) Some employees complain about a lot of noise and lack of privacy in them as well as difficulty in concentrating on work in such rooms. Others like open workspaces because working in them makes it easier to socialize with colleagues and tackle team tasks. However, suppose the company sees that such an environment causes more negative reactions and functional discomfort for employees. In that case, the employer should seek to counterbalance these negative effects through the use of the aesthetic and symbolic functions. Perhaps it is possible to set up a terrace where employees could go out to relax or improve the design of the office so that an aesthetically pleasant environment inspires positive emotions. Thus, the company should try to mitigate negative emotions via environmental factors that have a positive effect,” comments the researcher.


If you notice that employees are overwhelmed by negative emotions or their performance has deteriorated, consider finding out their opinion regarding their work environment and encouraging them to contribute to its change. It is not difficult to change the organizational environment, and this change may bring many positive results.