Have you ever noticed that you study better in certain places than others? Maybe you work well in the library and can not stand to be in your dorm room. Or maybe the HUB is way too distracting for you and your room helps you work much better. Studies have shown that the environment you work in has a big impact on how productive you are.
A study was done in Egypt to find out how much workspace affects your productivity and motivation and the results are solid, but maybe not quite want we wanted to know. Rasha Mahmoud Ali El-Zeiny, a professor at Minia University in Egypt, conducted this research in about six different offices. These offices were in several different areas so that his data would be spread out. He surveyed 129 employees about their work habits, their thoughts on the space they work in now and what changes they thought would help improve their motivation. He looked at 9 different areas within the workspace: furniture, noise, temperature, privacy, spatial arrangement, lighting, outside view, presence of plants and color. He had his sample group rate them on a scale of 1-5, 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree. 96% of the employees surveyed said that they believe that the office environment plays a role in how they work. Furniture scored the highest with an average of 4.43, meaning that furniture is the most likely to cause good or bad work. This makes sense because if you are sitting in an uncomfortable chair, you might not be able to focus on the work in front of you. Rasha also points out that bad furniture could cause health problems which would not lead to good work. The second highest scoring factor was temperature with a mean score of 4.24. Again, if it is too hot or too cold, employees will be more likely to be focusing on that than their work. If the space is too warm it also may cause employees to be grumpy. Overall Rasha made a point that employees believe that their workspace affects their productivity and shows what factors are most important to set a good environment.
I do not disagree with this study, however, I’m not convinced that he studied the right thing. All he found was what 129 people think about their workspace and own work habits. He didn’t really prove anything but maybe started a good discussion to be built off of. This experiment could have improved if he had used a randomized control trial. He could have taken his sample size and set up a couple different spaces: one with dim lighting, one with bright lighting, one with a comfortable chair, one with an uncomfortable chair, etc. He then could have randomly put different people in each space and given them the same task to do and watched how their performances differed.
That’s when I found this study done at a graduate school of engineering in Japan. They took a group of 222 college students and tested their proof reading skills in either a red, white or green room and then also surveyed them to find out their mood. Surprisingly enough, the people who worked in the red room made the least mistakes and the people in the white room made the greatest. It was hypothesized to be the other way around. However, when they were surveyed the people in the white room felt less distracted than the people in the red room. This shows that people’s intuitions are not always right and that is why that first study can not be fully trusted.
To end, it definitely is true that where we study will effect how we study because to be honest we all have our favorite spots! The mechanism isn’t quite clear yet though, nor is the “best work environment ever”. We might make less mistakes in a red room but if we aren’t in a good mood then it might not be worth it. Maybe we all just need green rooms to study in! Stay tuned, I’m certain someone will discover the “ultimate work environment” soon enough.