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Comfort in the Workplace

by David Smith

Comfort is typically not synonymous with workplace. Yet, as individuals, we crave a physically comfortable place in which to employ our knowledge and craft. An employee's performance is impacted by temperature, lighting, technology, noise and even the physicality of a chair or a desk. There is an expectation, and dare I say a right, to a comfortable work environment on behalf of the employee.

The lighting industry, for instance, has made tremendous progress to deliver a greater broadband of light frequencies within the facility. Light is most comfortable when it mimics the same broadband spectrum as the sun. When we step out of a facility and into the sunlight we often feel relieved. This is the natural reaction of our mind accepting a full broadband spectrum which we recognize as comfortable. 

In similar fashion, we react the same for noise. Is it too loud? Is it too quiet? In today's work environment, we are challenged to provide spaces that allow collaboration and independent work to co-exist. We are challenged with the shrinking amount of allocated real estate - due to cost, and the growing necessity to change work habits - due to productivity beliefs and cultural shifts. 

Within the world of acoustics, there are three principles that frame managing sound:

A = Absorb - the use of soft materials to absorb sound waves

B = Block - the use of hard materials used to block sound from traveling from one space to another 

C = Cover - the use of sound to cover sound 

Managing acoustics doesn't need to be allusive. Understanding the principles and the available resources to achieve a comfortable environment is the key to success. Architects, industry associations, and, dare I say manufacturers, should act as knowledge experts on the criteria and potential solutions for comfort. But no one knows your space like you do. 

The responsibility to appreciate the strategy of the organization and the working conditions to fulfill that strategy fall on the facility manager. The connection between strategy and organization performance design creates value, in particular for those attempting to manage talent, and adds to decision making on employee needs and retention. As workplace design continues to evolve FM's need to be creative. New materials and technologies are launched into the market every day. 

Comfort is a key criteria which needs to be built into the asset decision process - whether for lighting, furniture, or noise control. Comfort may not be a daily consideration in facility management but it certainly plays a role in the long-term success of any organization. Reach out, trust, and rely on those who want to contribute to the strategic success of your organization.