A full time employee you will spend approximately 25 to 30 years of their life at work. An employee is your most prized asset so it is vital that you should invest in their health to ensure their well being in the office, keeping them healthy, happy and motivated. Too often employees don’t take enough care until it’s too late then an employee isn’t at work and rather than being a contributor to profits, they become a drain.
For architects and designers, the idea that buildings influence the health, wellbeing and productivity of their occupants is not new. But this type of thinking is still not influencing most design, financing and leasing decisions.
In 2014 the World Green Building Council convened 60 experts from 40 businesses and academic institutions, across 20 countries, to try to bring this issue into the mainstream. There is evidence that demonstrates the physical work environment has an impact on the health and productivity of the office worker. Of course, the terms health, wellbeing and productivity encompass a whole range of related and complex issues. Health encapsulates physical and mental health, wellbeing suggests feelings of satisfaction and happiness.
Good indoor air quality, thermal comfort, high quality views, daylight, good acoustics and indeed location and amenities – all play a crucial role in creating a healthy, productive workplace. Short term sick leave has also been found to be 35% lower in offices ventilated with greater supply rates of outdoor air. It has also been shown that temperatures too high or too low can result in a 10% reduction in performance compared with the 21C to 23C baseline. Lighting can also have an effect, with offices that have better daylight views taking 6.5% less sick days.
Jane Henley, chief executive of the World Green Building Council, said: “The evidence linking good office design and improved health, wellbeing and productivity of their staff is now overwhelming.
“There is unquestionably a clear business case for investing in, developing and occupying healthier, greener buildings.”
Academics from a handful of universities examined the impact of ‘lean’ and ‘green’ offices on staff’s perceptions of air quality, concentration, and workplace satisfaction, and monitored productivity levels over subsequent months in two large commercial offices in the UK and The Netherlands.
Lead researcher Marlon Nieuwenhuis from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology said: “Our research suggests that investing in landscaping the office with plants will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity.
“Although previous laboratory research pointed in this direction, our research is, to our knowledge, the first to examine this in real offices, showing benefits over the long term. It directly challenges the widely accepted business philosophy that a lean office with clean desks is more productive.”
The research showed plants in the office significantly increased workplace satisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration, and perceived air quality. Analysis into the reasons why plants are beneficial suggests that a green office increases employees’ work engagement by making them more physically, cognitively, and emotionally involved in their work.
Many businesses are acutely aware of the importance of its staff remaining active, healthy and balanced within the workplace, and aim to develop work environments that not only attract new talent, but also nurture current staff while they are at work.
This is partly due to the diversification of working models; the term “agile working” is indicative of flexibility in more ways than one. Providing more options for staff means that employers can stimulate fitness, health and general mental wellbeing. This can mean offering anything from brighter spaces with bigger windows and open-plan offices with room to move around, or encouraging remote working.
Employers and developers are also increasingly locating leisure amenities in close proximity to office spaces, making sure that employees have improved access to gyms, entertainment, good food and green spaces, all of which can promote positivity and productivity at work. The challenge for employers is to create workplaces that slot easily into lives, accommodating family and home life, as well as entertainment and fitness activities.
As it becomes more and more evident that office wellbeing plays a vital role in staff productivity, many employers are making impressive headway into creating office environments that nurture and motivate. Make sure you’re one of those employers.