Scientists have been measuring work fatigue in different professions and settings for years, looking for patterns in workload, schedules, lack of sleep, and more. One factor that can significantly impact energy levels is traditional indoor work environments. Is there enough natural lighting? Is the atmosphere peaceful or chaotic? Can employees move around and do what they need to stay energized and focused?
Unfortunately, many conventional and even home office settings can exacerbate workplace fatigue. But you can reduce workplace fatigue by intentionally creating or finding a workspace that prioritizes comfort, an energizing environment, and the resources you need to get work done. Let’s take a look at some of the most common adverse factors in traditional offices and at-home work setups—and what the right coworking spaces do differently.
4 Ways Traditional Workspaces and Offices Can Drain Your Energy Levels
Today’s work environment is in a state of change. While some workers and businesses are making a return to traditional offices, others are embracing the remote work trend that continues to grow. Many businesses have realized the need for a middle ground—an inspiring, motivational space that encourages focused work just as much as it encourages networking and meeting with your coworkers for those collaborative business tasks.
Understanding the ways that traditional office spaces introduce disruption to employee energy and focus can help you make decisions about what your (or your company’s) office space should look like moving forward. Some of the core contributors to a lack of workspace energy include a few basic elements with a big impact.
Energy Drain #1: Isolation, Even When Near Coworkers
Traditional office environments can isolate employees and discourage collaboration. Individual cubicles and barriers that break the line of sight can inhibit productive communication. It can also discourage social communication, a necessary element of work that can keep energy high and improve employee morale. Conversely, open-concept designs that are built for people to work in solitude but without barriers or cubicle walls can be just as isolating and disruptive, as conversations can feel too public and interruptive.
Energy Drain #2: Orientation Toward Stillness and Long Periods of Work
More and more research highlights the productivity, emotional, and mental benefits of introducing more motion into your day at relatively frequent intervals. Pausing to stretch or walk around—or even give your eyes a well-deserved break—can improve overall health and help you to feel recharged.
However, most traditional office layouts and norms prohibit this. There are no spaces to walk around, even for the walking meetings popularized by Steve Jobs. Beyond the physical constraints of the space, there has also been a lot of pushback about frequent movement breaks. Everything from managers questioning why you aren’t at your desk to workspaces requiring employees to be at their desks at all times, with few exceptions, continues to haunt the conventional office space.
That leaves employees stuck in a chair and at their computer desk for long periods, which can harm short-term and long-term mental health. Not only can this quickly impact focus and motivation, but it also negatively affects energy levels and creativity.
Energy Drain #3: Distractions
Traditional office environments are rife with distractions, especially newer open office concepts built for solitary work but without available quiet spaces. A chat between a sales rep and a marketer at the end of the aisle can be loud and disruptive. The buzz of constant phone calls is an ongoing verbal undercurrent that can be aggravating and distracting. Your brain automatically tries to fill in the gaps, which reduces focus, energy, and patience.
Energy Drain #4: Lack of Options for Individualized Health and Wellness
Conventional office environments may generally adhere to ADA standards and well-entrenched accessibility requirements, but these bare minimum requirements foster compliance, not comfort and a welcoming atmosphere. The standardized approach to the physical construction and arrangement of offices and surrounding traditional offices inhibits focus and energy for many employees. For example, consider:
- Employees who get headaches from severe overhead lighting
- Employees who are easily distracted by noise and conversations
- Coworkers who are more productive in the day versus more productive in later working hours
- Employees who need regular access to restrooms
- Employees who need frequent walking or eating and drinking breaks for medical reasons—or simply because of preference
The right office space can accommodate all these needs and ensure workers aren’t distracted by adverse conditions or not having those needs met. For a portion of the pandemic, it seemed like remote work may have been the answer for resolving these issues, but remote work has its own challenges. Different problems regarding energy, mental focus, and even happiness continued to affect workers in remote work and at-home work setups.
3 Ways Fully Remote and At-Home Workspaces Can Drain Your Energy Levels
Energy Drain #5: Clutter
Many home offices are not dedicated spaces for work. Temporary workspaces on the kitchen table or a living room sofa, offices arranged for two people, and even offices organized for professional and personal work can introduce a lot of clutter.
While it can seem like your mind acclimates to clutter and visual distraction, staying zeroed in on work-related tasks requires actively ignoring visual cues of other, lingering to-dos or enjoyable distractions. This extra mental work can quickly reduce energy, even amongst professionals who authentically enjoy their work and want to stay focused.
Energy Drain #6: Frequent Task-Switching and Interruptions
At-home workspaces are often even more plagued than in-office spaces with task-switching cues and interruptions. A common example of task-switching involves emails. When a new message hits our inboxes, our immediate impulse is to look at it, process the message, and respond as needed. However, this causes a sort of mental reset and drag when returning to the original task, draining energy and leading to less efficiency. Outside of the office, this can be even more magnified by interruptions from family members and general personal life to-dos.
Energy Drain #7: Lack of Purpose-Driven Spaces
Again, this drawback can apply to both in-office and at-home workspaces, but the latter can better exemplify the problem. Many people try to make do with a bare-bones setup: a work surface, a laptop, and a chair in an atmosphere that is otherwise not conducive to inspiration and productivity. The problem is magnified in shared spaces, multipurpose spaces, or if the office setup has to be packed away to make room for dinner.
How an Intentionally Designed Hybrid Workspace Can Fill the Gap
Today’s modern teams don’t have to compromise with a limiting either/or situation. As hybrid work becomes a new normal for organizations that want to balance the flexibility of remote work with the return to in-office staff requirements, employees don’t even have to work with a mix of both environments.
Instead, the right modern coworking spaces are built with an understanding of how both traditional office and at-home remote environments can reduce energy and focus—and these modern spaces respond with inspirational, adaptive community-focused work environments that offer flexibility for everyone. Look for intentionally designed workspaces that preserve and enhance energy with a few specific elements.
A Blend of Private and Public Spaces
Coworking spaces need adaptable spaces to meet the needs of many different people. This starts with both private work environments—quiet, enclosed, and private spaces that facilitate deep work without distractions—and public spaces for employees who feed off the energy and enthusiasm of everyone working around them.
Accommodating this range of needs allows for maximum productivity, on one hand, and community growth, on the other. Professionals from different backgrounds can meet, collaborate, network, and develop relationships, expanding the possibilities for every area of work—including a great work-life balance.
Great coworking spaces will have conference and meeting rooms for intentional conversations and collaborative sessions. They can also facilitate a true blend of in-office and remote team management by giving employees everything they need to communicate and work with hybrid teams.
The Right Spaces for Moving, Interacting, and Eating
The best way to recharge can involve simply stepping away from your work for a few moments, but this can look different for different people. You may prefer stretching your legs for ten minutes every hour, getting in your steps and getting a new energy charge from physical movement. Your work neighbor may want to get a fresh cup of coffee every now and then for a caffeine boost and a chance to clear their thoughts. Still others may prefer to spend a few minutes chatting and having fun in an inspirational space designed for interaction. The right work environment facilitates all these breaks, so workers needs are met on multiple levels.
A Vibrant Atmosphere
Spaces with plenty of natural lighting, task lights with controllable brightness and warmth, and decor meant to energize (like bright colors and plants) can increase both productivity and energy. Some key aspects here include:
- Wall art that is interesting but not distracting. Ambiance matters. But artwork has a more immediate benefit, as employees can use set points 20-30 feet away to rest their eyes and reduce eye strain or fatigue.
- Elements of nature, proven to de-stress and re-energize. Anything from living and artificial plants to artwork that shows natural scenery can imbue the workplace with peace.
- Comfortable furniture. A collection of professional and stylish furniture works best here. Employees can choose the right choice for their ideal work environment, from traditional office chairs to chic accent chairs to long couches for informal meetings. Back pain is distracting and fatiguing, and passively preventing it in the first place can do wonders for employee energy.
Ultimately, people work at their highest potential when they have workspaces that prompt focus, networking, and social interaction in whatever modes and timeframes an individual worker needs to be motivated and productive. An inclusive, adaptive approach that facilitates multiple styles, environments, and visions within a well-defined theme is the perfect fit.
Bring Energy and Collaboration Back into the Workplace
The right coworking spaces offer structure, community, freedom, and inspiration. Utilizing the benefits of a coworking space can take your organization to the next level and give your employees even more reasons to love their work. A low-commitment, inspiring, and amenity-rich coworking space is a no-brainer.
Vuka’s conveniently located coworking and event spaces are thoughtfully designed to feel inspirational and inclusive while motivating productivity and building community. Our spaces foster focused work, connection, and a vibrant energy. Contact us to book a tour of our Austin coworking spaces today.