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Why is Environmental Psychology Important in the Workplace?

Environmental Psychologist and Wellbeing Consultant

Why is Environmental Psychology Important in the Workplace?

It is often assumed that employee performance, and satisfaction is proportional to financial remuneration, i.e. the wages or salary they are paid. However, although there is some truth in this, it is not a resolute enough (and long-term) indicator of what will maintain or boost performance and keep employees happy within their job role(s). 

Why?

Because after a certain amount of time, workers often perceive their paycheque as an entitlement, which ultimately leads them to look elsewhere for motivation to improve their performance. If others factors are not immediately within the grasp of the employee, it may lead to the employee being present in body only during working hours, i.e. doing the work for the sake of doing the work and ‘leaving their mind’ at the entrance of the workplace.

Although this may seem a touch abstract, the field of Environmental Psychology goes a long way to explaining why and how the overall workplace environment, i.e. a plethora of factors (not just financial remuneration) impacts the performance and satisfaction of employees. 

Performance Factors in the Workplace

There is little doubt that it is the quality of the overall work environment that has the most significant impact upon an employee’s performance and levels of motivation (rather than wages alone) – but what are these purported  ‘workplace performance factors’, how do they affect employees and how can they be utilised to promote employee happiness, motivation and ultimately performance? Let’s take a look:

Goal setting: Ensuring employees know what their goals are and what measurement(s) are being used to assess whether they have reached said goals. Clarity of objective(s) can only benefit employees, rather than hinder them.  

Performance-related feedback: Ensuring employees are made aware of how they have performed, and this is appropriately communicated to them. Correct use of feedback related to performance can help to instil motivation to perform better, regardless of the level of current performance.  

Rewards: Utilisation of both formal and informal rewards structures that consist of both internal and external rewards for those that have performed well. Identifiable and achievable rewards will always help to boost motivation, which will, in turn, help to improve performance. 

Support: Appropriate support from supervisors and managers who have the necessary interpersonal skills to understand employees and improve their confidence levels. 

Mentoring: Being aware of readily available internal and external coaching or mentoring that facilitates the application of existing skills and development of new skills, can help to boosts employees confidence in both the support network and their own ability progress beyond their current level. 

Resources: Ensuring employees have adequate time and (material) resources to allow them to perform to the best of their ability. By doing so, employees’ work is made easier, the error rate is reduced, and customer satisfaction increases. 

Physical Environment: Physical factors play a huge role in employee performance; therefore, ensuring illumination, noise, thermal comfort, colour and (indoor) air quality are optimised to maximise both performance and motivation. 

Although the above may read like some form of company or HR handbook, it does a great job of exemplifying the various elements within (and that make up) the workplace environment, in addition to how large a part environmental psychology plays in both short and long term employee performance, motivation and happiness.