How to Create a Comfortable Workplace Setup

It’s a big weekend for BambooHR: we’re moving into a new office space starting tomorrow. We’ve grown a lot in the past few months, so we’re all looking forward to more elbow room and break room refrigerator real estate in our new workplace setup.

As an HR representative, it’s your responsibility to ensure your employees are comfortable in their workspace. While much of this revolves around making employees feel valued, safe, and welcome, there’s a large physical component that goes into a great working environment. Here are some of these physical elements when creating your workplace with a great experience in mind:

Information vs. Imitation

As with many other decisions, it’s better to trust evaluation over emulation. Just because you see an awesome office on Pinterest with LEGO sculptures, a ball pit, and a model railway food service doesn’t mean that the same setup will work best for your organization.

As you plan your new workplace setup, get feedback from each of your teams, then fit their requests into your space and budget constraints. You might not be able to give everyone everything they want, but you’ll cover what’s most important, even if it’s not Pinterest perfect.

Mood (and Performance) Lighting

If your office has a creative department, walk in and take a look at their fluorescent lighting. I’m willing to bet good money that they’ve unscrewed at least half of the tubes if they haven’t turned off the lighting altogether. It turns out that glare on a computer monitor makes it hard to correct colors, and small differences in color lead to big departures from the brand.

While a customer support representative might long for sunshine and expansive views, a developer might prefer to work in the dark center of the building (with the lights off for good measure). Interviewing your managers will give you a good idea of the right light levels for each team, so you’re not basing your plans on what you heard from the one developer who secretly wants to be Batman.

Shared or Separate?

One of the biggest challenges with setting up a workspace is getting the right balance of collaboration and concentration. Physical space affects mental space. If you’ve ever had someone hovering over your shoulder watching you type or read, you know what I’m talking about.

The classic office environment tends to separate employees with cubicle walls, or packs them into spaces. More modern offices remove these barriers and create open floor plans, where everyone can see everyone, conversations (and Nerf darts) fly freely, and a shared flavor develops.

Should you create a shared office or separate spaces? Open offices promote friendship and collaboration. But for focus-intensive positions like programming, private space means fewer distractions and more productivity. You’ll also need secure and private office space for sensitive HR and financial records.

Get Comfortable

You can create the most physical comfort for your employees when you provide the right kinds of tools and encourage healthy habits.

Many employees work at a desk for multiple hours each day, and they often end up in a position that ergonomic specialists call the turtle: hunched over, arms extended, neck raised to see their screen. This leads to back strain, shoulder strain, neck strain, and more, with all their accompanying medical costs and insurance charges.

A couple of simple changes can make all the difference: positioning your computer monitor so that the top is one or two inches above your eye level helps you keep your neck elevated, and keeping your forearms and hands on your desktop takes the strain off your wrists and shoulder.

Ergonomics experts recommend mixing periods of standing and sitting. (On a personal note, thanks Bamboo for the awesome new standing desks!) But even if your budget assumes that your new workplace setup will include used cubicle furniture from 1996, encouraging your employees to stand up at least once every half hour will help.

Making a comfortable workplace helps improve employee health and increase employee performance and engagement. Here’s hoping that your careful research can give your organization the right workplace setup to keep on growing and improving.

On a personal note, here are a few practical tips for individual employees as they set up their workspaces in the office or at home.

How Do I Make a Good Desk Setup?

A good desk setup is one that puts everything you need during the course of your workday within arm’s reach, but a great one takes your physical comfort into account as well. To create the best desk setup for your physical and practical needs, invest in (or request from your employer) the tools that will give you the best experience during an eight-hour workday, which can include: performance lighting, an ergonomic mouse and keyboard, an adjustable-height desk, a posture-supportive chair, and/or laptop mounts. Arrange your monitor(s) at positions and heights that don’t strain your neck and pay attention to your body for signs of irritation, cramping, stiffness and strain. These symptoms will signal if something in your setup can be modified or improved.

Why is it Important to Work in a Comfortable Environment?

A comfortable work environment can impact employees—and productivity— more than you might think.

Reduce Stress, Boost Safety and Productivity

Clutter is a well-known cause of stress, so reducing office clutter can help make your employees more relaxed and productive. It also promotes workplace safety. Clutter doesn’t just add stress—it can pose a trip hazard, too. A clutter-free environment can also help to cut out distractions and improve concentration.

Safeguard Employee Health

Ergonomic workplace design can also raise employee’s happiness, comfort, and overall health. In fact, a third of work-related injuries and illnesses come from musculoskeletal disorders, the risk of which can be lowered through an ergonomic workspace.

Encourage Happiness

Having a comfortable work environment can help employees feel happier at their job, which in turn will help them perform better and be more motivated to work through tasks.

How Do I Create a Comfortable Work Environment?

One key to a work environment that is both comfortable and productive is proper lighting. First make sure you have access to the right lighting to do the job safely. While natural light is best for workers’ moods, you can also use different bulbs in order to make your workspace more comfortable and productive. Warm lights are great for break rooms while cool lights are ideal for brainstorming and productivity.

Office temperature can also make an impact on both comfort and productivity. For example, one study linked warmer temperatures to fewer typing errors. Warmer temperatures can also reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries.

However, comfort isn’t just physical. Encouraging employees to customize their work areas can help them stay motivated and manage stress. Whether it’s a friendly plant or family photos, these things help employees feel like they belong, which in turn makes them more enthusiastic about work.

How Do I Set up a Workstation at Home?

In 2020, working at home became the new norm. Here’s some tips that can help get you set up a workstation at home: begin by finding a place that is distraction free and suitable for your kind of work.

Once you’re set up, there are plenty of ways to make your home workstation more comfortable. First off, make sure your Zoom background is professional and free of distraction, whether you decide to use a virtual background or decorate the space behind you. You’ll feel better presenting a consistent, professional front to both coworkers and clients. Then you can focus on improving the practical details of your workspace instead of stressing over how it looks during virtual meetings and presentations.

For example, a high-quality headset with built-in microphone will give your ears, vocal chords and neck a break. If eyestrain is a concern, consider tinted computer glasses.

What about the background noise? While there are products specifically made to help soundproof rooms, you can also take a DIY approach, such as hanging heavy curtains to muffle outside noises and adding a rug to absorb even more sound.