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A Publication of WTVP

We’ve all been there: My office is either too hot or too cold. I have to shut my blinds to see the computer screen (though there is invariably a beam of light that still gets though). When will the guy next to me quit making tapping noises with his pencil and turn down his radio (or turn it up, depending on the song)?

The work environment—whether in an office or warehouse environment—has a significant impact on the workforce. Cornell University’s Department of Design and Environmental Analysis has published numerous studies regarding the difference in temperature, lighting and acoustical features in the work environment and their effects on productivity. Below are some of the findings presented at a 2004 conference by Alan Hedge, PhD.

Lighting
There are many facets of lighting, including general illumination, glare, task lighting, colors and shadows. All can have an impact on the worker performing his or her duties. Lighting affects the mood of the workers and their interpersonal interactions. Lighting requirements generally change with the age of the worker. Consider other findings as they relate to worker productivity. Performance decreases:
• when the room is too dim or too bright.
• when there is too much glare.
• when the worker has no control over these issues.

Noise/Sound
It’s the voice of the worker, the machine or the irritating elevator music that can drive us crazy. Performance decreases:
• when noise is loud or annoying.
• when a worker’s privacy is compromised (think in terms of cubicle design).
• when the worker has no control.

Temperature
Heating, cooling and ventilation systems play an important role in a workers’ productivity as well. Performance decreases:
• when it is too cold or too hot.
• when pollution is present.
• when the ventilation systems are too noisy.
• when the worker has no control.

Just how much do these factors matter? In an article related to these research findings, Dr. Hedge states that “raising the temperature to a more comfortable thermal zone saves employers about $2 per worker, per hour.” He adds, “At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the workers were keyboarding 100 percent of the time with a 10 percent error rate, but at 68 degrees, their keying rate went down to 54 percent of the time with a 25 percent error rate…Temperature is certainly a key variable that can impact performance.”

I encourage you to take time to look up similar research. These workplace factors can cost companies significant amounts of money when ignored, and conversely, can save money for a company when addressed. For more information on the research, visit ergo.human.cornell.edu. IBI

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