Want a more efficient, happier office — but don’t have a big budget to invest in improvements? According to a fascinating article in the current issue of Scientific American Mind, new research suggests that simply letting employees decorate their own office space yields quite significant benefits in productivity and employee well-being.
In the authors’ experiments, workers who could customize their office decor showed about a 30% improvement in productivity and well-being over those placed in undecorated office space. Not a bad return on office mementos! Meanwhile, people who worked in an environment that had been set up to include art and plants were 15% more productive than those in the undecorated space.
Bosses, however, should resist the urge to tinker unnecessarily with an employee’s decor if they’ve let the employee choose it. In the experiments, Scientific American Mind reports, productivity gains disappeared for “disempowered” workers who had their decoration choices overridden and their office rearranged — even though the rearranged office still contained art and plants. The Scientific American Mind article’s authors, S. Alexander Haslam and Craig Knight, conclude:
“Employees perform best when they are encouraged to decorate their offices as they see fit, with plants and ornaments, comic calendars, photographs of their children or their cats — whatever makes them feel most comfortable and in their element.”