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Perceived Influence Of The Work Environment On Productivity Among Administrative Staff


The purpose of the study was to investigate the influence of the work environment on the productivity of administrative staff. The factors under investigation in the study were the physical environment, job related factors and the fringe benefits impact on administrative staff productivity. The study was guided by the specific objectives; to identify influence of physical work environment on productivity among administrative employees in the University of Nairobi; to assess the relationship between the office ergonomics and employee productivity among administrative staff in the University of Nairobi and to establish the extent that job – related factors affect employee productivity among administrative staff at the University of Nairobi. The target population of the study consisted of 161 Senior Administrative staff and Administrative Assistant staff in six colleges, Central Administration and Students’ Welfare Authority where a sample of 93 respondents was carried out. The researcher used both qualitative and quantitative methods to collect data which included the questionnaires and key informant interviews . Data gathered was analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social scientists (SPSS). Major findings of the study indicate that there is an impact of the physical environment with regard to the noise factor which was identified to be disruptive and was difficult to control.  This was associated with the open plan offices design some offices. Job related factors were also indicated to have an impact on the productivity of employees which was ranked poorly by the study participants. The study respondents acknowledged the management’s effort to provide fringe benefits in the course of their work among which medical cover was the most coveted. However, respondents indicated that the management should consider the harmonization of fringe benefits offered across Departments and Colleges. Based on these findings the study made the following recommendations, the University of Nairobi should continuously assess the physical working conditions of administrative staff and implement measures. University management to increase the number of potted plants in staff work spaces to counter the effect of high humidity which has been observed to contribute to illness; The university of Nairobi management should consider harmonization of fringe benefits offered to administrative employees across the colleges.




1.1 Background to the Study

Human Resource Managers nowadays are faced with crucial issues of occupational health and safety than before. This is because the workers just like any other resources require maintenance and care in order to maximize their productivity (Casio, 1996). Most people spend fifty percent of their lives within indoor environments, which greatly influence their mental status, actions, abilities and performance (Sundstrom, 1994). Better outcomes and increased productivity is assumed to be the result of better workplace environment. Better physical environment of office will boost the employees and ultimately improve their productivity. The constitution of Kenya (2010) Article (41) Section 2 (b) states that “every worker has the right to reasonable working conditions.” Conducive work environment ensures the well-being of employees which invariably will enable them exert themselves to their roles with all vigour that may translate to higher productivity (Akinyele, 2007).

The concept of productivity is often measured differently, however. Sometimes in a more subjective manner, by asking about the degree to which the work environment influences productivity (Vischer, 1989) sometimes in a more objective manner by asking about the number of hours or percentage of time that is lost (Raw, 1990; Learnan, 1994). Some researchers use the term “job performance”. A number of indicators are scored to provide an indication of this. Brill (1984) uses; the quantity of work, quality of work, meeting deadlines, frequency of errors, responsibilities, creativity, interpersonal relations, independence. Creating a work environment in which employees are productive is essential to increased profits for an organization, corporation or small business. Principles of management dictate that, to maximize employee productivity center around two major areas of focus: personal motivation and the infrastructure of the work environment (Chandrasekar, 2011).

According to Beer et al. (1994) model of human resource management, work systems cannot only affect commitment, competence, cost effectiveness and congruence but also have long term consequence for workers’ well being; there is some evidence to indicate that work systems designs may have effects on physical health, mental health and longevity of life itself. The mind and body need to be in a state of health and well-being for work and concentration. This is a prime prerequisite for productivity. High productivity brings a sense of achievement for the individual as well as increased profits for the work organization (Al-Anzi, 2009).

Kohun (1992) defines work environment as “an entirety” which comprises the totality of forces, actions and other influential factors that are currently and/or potentially contending with the employee’s activities and performance. Brenner (2004) argued that work environment designed to suit employee’s satisfaction and free flow of exchange of ideas is a better medium of motivating employees towards higher productivity. Job – related issues are also a factor within the work environment which has a bearing on the job satisfaction which in turn influences productivity of staff. According to the Steadman Report (2007) 29% of University of Nairobi staff identified job-related factors as a key satisfaction driver coming second after Organisation focus at 49% which was the most popular.

Work environment includes some factors, which either contributes positively or negatively to achieving maximum employee productivity (Elywood, 1999). The factors which either contributes positively or negatively to employee productivity are: temperature, humidity and air flow, noise, lighting, employee personal aspects, contaminants and hazards in the working environment, types of sub-environment. How well employees engage with the organization, especially with their immediate environment, influences to a great extent their error rate, level of innovation and collaboration with other employees, absenteeism and, ultimately, how long they stay in the job (Al-Anzi, 2009). Brown et al. (2003) suggests a positive relationship between employees’ perception of performance-related pay plans and management-employee relations. For instance, administrative staff in the University of Nairobi have to undergo performance appraisal from their immediate supervisors for promotion purposes (UoN Strategic Plan 2008-2013).

The quality of work depends upon safe and healthy working conditions in determining employee’s job behavior. The organizational climate is an important indicator of employee behavior as a combination of social and psychological factors. It is found that working conditions are attached with employees’ job involvement and job satisfaction that ultimately leads to better performance of the employees (Scott et al., 2000).

In discussing the notion of the work environment, it is important to include the concept of office ergonomics. Ergonomics is the scientific study of human work. It considers the physical and mental capabilities and limits of the worker as he or she interacts with tools, equipment, work methods, tasks and the working environment. (Hayworth, 1991) Ergonomics reduces the risk of injury by adapting the work to fit the person instead of forcing the person to adapt to the work.  In addition to injury prevention, ergonomics is also concerned with enhancing work performance, by removing the barriers that exist in many work places that prevent employees from performing to the best of their abilities. Another benefit of applying ergonomics to office work is that it helps people work more effectively, efficiently, and productively at their jobs. Office design incorporates both ergonomics and work flow, which examine the way in which work is performed in order to optimize layout (Hameed & Amjad, 2009). Miles (2000) found that the additional investment in ergonomic tables and chairs for workers yielded a 5-month payback in terms of increased productivity.

According to Hameed and Amjad (2009) the performance of an employee is measured by the output that the individual produces and it is related to productivity. At corporate level, productivity is affected by factors such as employees, technology and objectives of the organization. It is also dependent on the physical environment and its affect on health and employees’ performance.

The word ‘administration’ derives from the Middle English word administracioun, which has particular meanings in various contexts, but all retain a sense of service. In the administrative environment, hierarchy means a graded organization of several successive steps or levels that are interlinked, integrating the efforts of various individuals with one another (Collins, 1999). Administrative employees are referred to as non-managerial staff or employees. Their output is usually monitored and managed from the top to the bottom level, in other words in a top-down approach.

1.2 Problem Statement

Recently public universities have received an influx of students through different programs such as the parallel programmes. This has led to an increase in management and administration challenges to be able to effectively and efficiently ensure the smooth operations aimed at facilitating students’ and academic staff operations. The ability of administrative staff to undertake these duties and responsibilities have received much discussion and have led to implementation of performance measurements to influence delegation of duties among administrative professionals. However, hardly any research has been undertaken to identify the work environment in which university administrative staff operate and how this influences their performance and inevitably contributes to their productivity. Despite improved pay packages and promotions based on these performance appraisal, workers productivity is affected by their well-being in the workplace given that employees today spend a considerable amount of time in their workplace. Employee absenteeism is major constraint to productivity in the workplace. For instance the University of Nairobi Strategic Plan 2008-2013 identifies absenteeism among university staff to be at 12%.

There is therefore a need for organizations and employers to acknowledge the environment in which their employees are working in order to sustain and promote employee well-being which invariably leads to productivity. The study focused on the intrinsic and extrinsic needs of administrative employees that might affect their performance and well-being. If the needs regarding the working environment of these employees can be identified and met – at least to some extent – the morale and productivity of employees should increase.

1.3 Research Questions

  1. To what extent does the physical work environment influence productivity among administrative staff at the University of Nairobi?
  2. To what extent do office ergonomics affect administrative staff at the University of Nairobi?
  3. To what extent do job-related factors influence administrative staff at the University of Nairobi?
  4. What approaches can be adopted to improve the work environment for administrative staff at the University of Nairobi


1.4 Research Objectives

The overall objective of the study was to identify the influence of the work environment on the productivity among administrative employees at the University of Nairobi. The study was guided by the following objectives.

  1. To identify influence of physical work environment on productivity among administrative employees in the University of Nairobi
  2. To assess the effects of office ergonomics among administrative staff in the University of Nairobi
  3. To establish the extent that job – related factors affect employee productivity among administrative staff at the University of Nairobi
  4. To recommend ways of improving work environment to increase employee productivity among administrative staff at the university of Nairobi

1.5 Justification of the Study

The present study will contribute to the body of knowledge on the concept of the work environment and employee productivity in the service sector particularly in public universities institutions which continue to register high number of students given their role in national development. Secondly, the study will also assess the effect of work environment and identify efforts towards the improvement of the work environment by employers to introduce and promote employee well being. The study will assist departmental manager and supervisors to identify strategies they can implement to increase employee performance and productivity at the work place by providing a conducive work environment. The study will also inform policy and decision makers on the importance of a conducive work environment on the well being of their employees thus improving on productivity and organizational performance.

1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study

The study focused on the University of Nairobi which comprises six colleges located within Nairobi and Kiambu counties; although there are other centers around the country the study would not be able to undertake the research among all centers due to the resource constraints.  The study focused on the organizational conditions that may be important for the psychosocial work environment and for health. The study further limited its scope to the University of Nairobi administrative employees.

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