working from home

Before Setting Up for Remote Work, Here’s What Science Says about the Office and Productivity

With the pandemic, we have finally been ushered en masse into the age of remote work, with little choice in the matter. Much has been made of how long many workers have awaited this. In truth, however, being able to work from home is a very traditional arrangement.

In centuries past, few organizations operated on a large scale and could afford to construct dedicated buildings for administration and other tasks. The Medicis, and later on the East India Trading Company, were some high-profile examples. But for most workers, the default was to set up their workstations at home.

That said, working from home is a vastly different proposition now than it was in bygone eras. By contrast, once the company office model gained traction, it continued to evolve and improve over the years.

As a result, several scientific studies have focused on the effects of an office environment on worker productivity. And the modern remote worker would do well to draw upon that information to maximize performance in their home offices.

Physical conditions are consistently important

The most obvious components of an office environment tend to be physical in nature. And their effects on productivity have also been more extensively studied. Research has consistently reported a strong correlation between specific elements of the physical environment and the productivity of workers within the board.

In some ways, the results of the studies are hardly surprising. Controlling indoor temperature for optimal comfort, for instance, is something most people do at home even when they aren’t working there.

Sound is more of a mixed bag. While some people find ambient noise conducive to productivity, it can also be a distraction. If you find this to be an issue, there are many solutions to try, depending on the noise’s volume and source.LVT flooring can soften footsteps, while you can install sound insulation in the walls or ceiling of your home office to block out much louder sources.

Color is acknowledged to affect an employee’s mood and productivity. However, the individual’s reaction to a specific color may vary according to culture, genetics, and other factors. In general, blue or neutral colors are conducive to concentration-based tasks. Green’s association with balance is compatible with management, while schemes with high contrast or vibrance work better with creative tasks.

Finally, some factors that deserve considerable attention in a traditional office may have limited or no impact in a home office. Chief among these are layout and space. They are mostly relevant due to how they affect interactions and communication between co-workers. For a remote worker, as long as you have enough space to be comfortable, you should be fine.

Behavioral factors are inconsistent

graphic designer working

Many studies of the office environment in relation to productivity also take behavioral factors into account. These include well-being, relationships with employees and supervisors, and other aspects relating to the nature of the job and organization in question.

Evidently, though these factors still apply to the work from home scenario, they tend not to be tied to how you set up your home office. However, since most interactions take place through online media, the quality of your internet connection and relevant equipment still has the capacity to improve these aspects.

Studies of workers in various companies across four Nordic countries revealed no significant correlation between these factors and their productivity. On the other hand, a study of employees in Iraq demonstrated that behavioral factors are even more important than physical ones for improving productivity.

In short, behavioral aspects of your work environment might help improve your performance, but the effect could be tied to cultural influences. There’s certainly no harm in getting a better webcam, mic, and Wi-Fi signal, though.

Other variables

Some other factors mentioned or marginally studied in traditional offices might also impact your remote working ability. However, these may be difficult to account for properly.

They include access to amenities and facilities, such as food, the toilet, and outdoor spaces. The presence and activity of other household members can affect them as well. This is particularly relevant to caring for children, the elderly, ill, or disabled relatives.

If you feel that such factors might be detrimental to your productivity, partner with your manager and colleagues for solutions. We’re all very much figuring things out as we go along, so it’s best to combine our ideas and experiences. Meanwhile, you can make the improvements that science has already shown to be effective at boosting work performance.

About the Author

Scroll to Top