17 November 2016 | Jamie Harris
The physical working environment can help to combat psychological factors impacting workplace performance, said a speaker at this week's Workplace Week convention.
Workplace strategist Jan Johnson told delegates: "Every person is a knowledge asset - it's the fusion of that person's knowledge with those of others that the organisation benefits from."
She noted that despite the surge in technology and communications tools, current research is indicating that individuals sitting six feet away from each other are four times more likely to communicate than individuals sitting 60 feet away from each other, with communication levels dropping to negligible rates when those workers are on separate floors or in a separate building.
Johnson is VP of design and workplace resources at Allsteel, an office furniture provider based in the United States of America.
Speaking via video link from Chicago, Illinois, she explained the non-physical factors that affect individual and team performance of knowledge workers - such as stress and social cohesion - can be supported by physical aspects of the working environment.
But those aspects are subjective. She said: "There's a lot of subjectivity to this. It's open to the individual's interpretation of things. That's the hard part of not being able to give out very specific formulas, because it's how we assign meaning to things."
But Johnson explained that gaining an understanding from the individuals in a particular environment would help to narrow the margin for error.
She said: "As we take these ideas of well-being over to the physical environment [and how it can be a factor in an individual's performance], there aren't any hard and fast "paint the walls blue and things will be great", but what we can do is make it a participative process, so we come to a shared understanding."
Johnson writes and speaks about workplace strategy and the correlation between business strategies and the planning, design and management of working environments.
The Workplace Week Convention was held at Aviva's central London office. This year's convention focused on "managing the workplace for peak professional performance, beyond wellness".
Speakers included former tennis player Tim Henman, Professor John Harrison, Sky's Neil Usher, and Andrew Mawson from event organiser AWA.