The more productive your team is, the more money you make. The trouble is that few productivity investments justify their cost.

Sure, you could get everyone new computers, buy state-of-the-art project management software, or even swap out poor performers on your team. All of those things might soup up your team’s productivity — but will they? You won’t know until you’ve spent tens of thousands on technology or new hires.

Rather than make big, uncertain bets, spend a little to improve your office environment. The right degree of openness and the right amenities can make double-digit improvements to your team’s productivity. These four tweaks are a great place to start:

1. Control noise levels.

You know how distracting a noisy workspace can be. Noise-canceling headphones or white-noise apps can help, but they’re not office-wide solutions. Especially if you have an open-concept space, invest in soundproofing. Adding mass loaded vinyl to the walls can drop noise levels by dozens of decibels.

If you have a multimedia production team that works on podcasts or other audio assets, go the extra mile. Use acoustical caulk to seal spaces between sound panels and floors. Consider adding a floating floor — which is really just a wooden framework atop the existing floor — to dampen vibrations. Although those are more expensive upgrades, bear in mind that they’ll make teams on both sides of the door more productive. 

2. Designate a creative space.

Most workers feel their office space doesn’t help them be creative. They might be fine sitting in a cubicle while they hammer out emails, but what about when it’s time to come up with that next marketing campaign? For creative activities, employees need a dedicated space. 

Fortunately, your creative space doesn’t need to be huge. Because brainstorms and other creative collaborations work best with small teams, a space for six or 10 should be enough. Outfit it with comfortable yet visually interesting furniture, thought-provoking art, and mementos from your company’s creative successes. Be sure to give it the noise-reduction treatment, too.

If you’re at an agency or another company with lots of creatives, take a “phone booth” approach. Let people check out closet-sized rooms where they can strategize, write, and design. Although real walls are a better choice for noise-proofing, curtain dividers can work if you’re on a tight budget.

3. Upgrade your work stations.

Don’t just pay attention to the rooms of your office; think about the stations team members actually work at. Nearly half of workers who switch from a seated desk to a standing one report that it increases their productivity.

Just as importantly, think about the equipment your employees use. You may not have the funds to buy everyone a brand-new computer, but you can probably afford some new accessories. Are old keyboards giving people carpal tunnel? Does a left-handed employee need a special mouse? Improving ergonomics can boost productivity while reducing stress and work-related healthcare expenses. 

4. Use color wisely.

Have you ever noticed how much a fresh coat of paint can change the mood of an entire room? Depending on how your office is painted, your color scheme might be creating stress or a sense of sterility.

What colors are best for an office space? Experts suggest choosing subtle colors like off-white, light blue, teal, or gray. Cool tones produce a calming effect and also give a professional impression to visitors. Warm ones like yellow, light orange, or pink can work for creative spaces.

The only two “never ever” colors for office spaces are stark white — which can seem clinical and dirties quickly — red, and black. Especially when it’s a bright hue or used on every wall, red can amplify anxiety. Black walls can make spaces feel suffocating or depressing.

Your workspace doesn’t have to be a palace in order to promote productivity. Ask team members which upgrades matter most to them, and budget accordingly. You can always invest in others once the initial improvements pay off.

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