By Leah Grout Garris
Facilities managers have a central role to play in making workplaces comfortable for all occupants. That's no small thing — unhappy workers tend to be less productive, so making the environment more comfortable can actually help the company's bottom line.
Here are four ideas on how improve the work environment in your building to positively impact occupant satisfaction.
1. Address Hot or Cold Spots
Temperature imbalances have become enough of an issue in commercial buildings that companies like Comfy and Honeywell are creating apps to help employees contact facilities management when work areas are too hot or too cold.
Hot and cold spots can stem from things like solar heat gain from south- or west-facing windows, building controls that aren't set correctly, or malfunctioning HVAC equipment. According to OSHA, ideal workplace temperatures should fall between 68 and 76 degrees F.
If you receive occupant feedback about hot and cold spots, check the relevant HVAC system components to ensure everything is functioning correctly. If everything looks good, walk the building to locate hot and cold spots and ask occupants when and where they notice temperature differences. That will help you diagnose the reasons and find solutions.
2. Improve Lighting Levels
The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) establishes lighting-level recommendations to make sure workplaces have appropriate lighting based on office layouts, energy efficiency requirements, or the tasks that workers are performing — for instance, guidelines address what's appropriate for workers doing computer-based tasks.
For example, the IES indicates that office work typically calls for medium to high lighting levels (lighting levels of between 45 and 65 footcandles). Invest in a light meter to quickly and accurately measure lighting levels throughout your building, and make adjustments according to the IES's recommendations. Doing so could mean the difference between a worker having a normal day on the job or a splitting migraine.
3. Keep Up With Restocking
When thinking about how to improve the work environment, don't forget the simple things. If your supplies of soap, toilet paper, paper towels or other necessities sometimes run out completely in bathrooms or breakrooms, rethink your restocking strategy to get ahead of usage.
The less time occupants spend notifying someone that products need to be restocked — and waiting for replacements — the faster they can get back to work (and the less frustrated they'll be).
4. Use Sound Masking to Reduce Distracting Noise
Most of today's office environments incorporate open-office work spaces. While this type of setup can improve collaboration and teamwork, it can also create distractions as employees listen to co-workers eating, talking on the phone or having conversations with coworkers. It can also be difficult to have private or sensitive conversations in open-office work areas.
Simple sound-masking systems are one way to overcome this challenge. By broadcasting adjustable levels of white noise throughout the space, sound masking can diminish office sounds and allow conversations to occur without disrupting nearby employees.
If you're not sure where to start with environmental adjustments, you might do a simple occupant survey to get a sense for the biggest sources of discomfort in the workplace. Create a short list of questions you'd like feedback on, and include a field for occupants to provide suggestions on how to improve the work environment.
A lot of factors contribute to employee satisfaction — some are more obvious than others. Really take the time to engage with your building's staff; doing so will demonstrate your commitment to their comfort.