How to Update Your Workplace to Facilitate Learning & Development

  • Paul Cartwright
  • 28 August 2019

When considering the biggest impediments to a workplace’s productivity, learning and development, it’s surprising how rarely the work environment itself is considered to be the source of the problem. But when employees work in a dreary office setting with little to no privacy, or are surrounded by interruptions every few minutes, they will likely get distracted and won’t be able to concentrate on their work. If this sounds like your workplace, here are some ways you can update it and, in turn, improve employee performance and engagement.

What impact can the work environment have on development?

If your workplace has large open spaces and bad lighting, holds locked-in weekly meetings and has a reliance on technology, this type of work environment can affect employee productivity. It can also affect their ability to engage with learning and development.

An open-plan workplace can result in distractions such as people speaking loudly and general elevated noise levels across the office. In meetings, disruptions include making small talk, gossiping, and discussing other projects on the side. Meetings also take up a considerable amount of time that could be better spent finishing work.

Technology only makes the problem worse with distractions like people tapping on the keyboard, talking on the phone, dealing with computer screen glare, or having to check emails constantly every day. Likewise, some office equipment make noises and some software and hardware may suddenly stop working.

What’s more, a badly lit workplace can negatively affect one’s mood, leading to fatigue and poor productivity. This could be due to not getting enough natural light, dull lighting, or not having the appropriate lighting fixtures in a room.

Office workers lose about 86 minutes a day due to distractions. In turn, workplace distractions lead to productivity loss as a result of low morale, increased stress, frustration, and lack of engagement and motivation. Unsatisfied employees may eventually choose to leave the company.

6 ways to minimise workplace distractions

As a manager or trainer, it’s important to minimise distractions while keeping a friendly and welcoming workplace. If you don’t know where to start, the following are some of the changes you can make to your workplace to help people focus on work and learning.

1. Train your employees in avoiding distractions

Offering a training program to improve the effects of developments may seem redundant on the surprise, but offering a learning and development program that teaches your employees the functional, interpersonal soft skills can help them actively address with distractions. For example, you can teach them how to use technology more efficiently, mindfulness practices to stay on task and be focused, how to manage their time more effectively, and leadership skills to take control of meetings. In the end, your employees will learn how to focus in the middle of chaos, lead effective and productive meetings, and make good use of resources to stay organised and focused.

2. Implement the golden hour

The golden hour is a distraction-free period of time when employees can work on their own and practice focused work. For one hour, ask your employees to block apps, chat and notifications, reduce phone usage, avoid checking emails, put an end to meetings, deny outside visitor access, and so on. This’ll help your employees be more productive at work due to less stress and peace of mind. You can utilise your people analytics data to help you determine the best time of day to observe the golden hour.

3. Use sound absorbing materials

You can control the ambient noise by using sound absorbing materials like carpet, acoustic dampening wall art, shaped drop ceilings, and ceiling fixtures such as baffles and clouds. You can also consider adding indoor plants to your workplace, as they can help absorb sounds too. All of these will not only help dampen loud noises and promote a more productive workplace, they’ll also keep your workplace friendly and welcoming, and create intimate, adaptable spaces in an open plan environment.

4. Designate quiet and loud spaces

You can repurpose a conference room or office into a quiet room to help employees focus on getting things done, free from distraction. Each employee can have their own table or cubicle. You should also have dedicated spaces for things like collaborative project work, workshops and meetings, presentations, and team activities. You can make heavy use of sound absorbing materials in loud rooms.

5. Control exterior noise

Exterior noise can also affect employee productivity if your workplace is located near a busy freeway or highway, a carpark or loading dock, or noisy neighbours that share adjacent walls. While exterior dampening can help reduce the noise, you should also buffer outside noise with workshop areas or loud rooms. Consider using plants, bookshelves, cupboards, and music to reduce the effect of external sounds.

6. Use the right lighting fixtures

The lighting fixtures you can use to best illuminate the office, workspaces, and specific tasks are ceiling pendants, ceiling luminaires, controlled task lighting, and standing and desktop lamps or luminaires. You can also use these lighting fixtures together with vertical surface illumination lights (eg spotlights, wall washers, wall luminaires, and downlights) to provide natural lighting, enhance productivity, and create sensible moods for different areas within your workplace.

Ready to update your workplace?

Creating a productive work environment is critical to the overall success of your organisation. So start making changes to your workplace and you’ll reap the rewards of not only improved employee productivity, but also improved retention.

DeakinCo. offers learning and development solutions that enhance the performance of individuals and the organisations they work in. To find out more about how our micro-credentials and other services can enhance your organisation’s competitive advantage, contact us for a discussion today.