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Why a Sustainable Greener Office Will Improve Productivity

Editors Note: This guest post by Reno Macri – Founder and Director of Enigma Visual Solutions. His opinions are his own.

In recent times, environmental issues have increasingly factored into office design and businesses have become more willing to work with commercial interior designers to create greener, more sustainable environments. With that said, there is still resistance and research carried out by Accenture in 2013 found that 37 percent of managers who supported the idea of sustainability in principle reported that the biggest obstacle was a lack of business value.

Yet, a study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior shows that businesses implementing eco-friendly green practices enjoy levels of productivity that are 16 percent higher, on average, than in non-green office buildings, indicating the business value of adopting green practices is actually very strong. In this article, we take a closer look at the reasons why greener office buildings are often more productive.

1. Improved morale

One of the most obvious ways in which green offices can improve productivity is by providing a more pleasant work environment for employees, increasing their morale and satisfaction levels in the process. Indeed, repeated research has demonstrated the value of seeking out green office interior design services to increase the level of happiness within the workplace, and happier staff are more motivated and more likely to give full effort.

An example of such research comes from the University of Exeter, where a study found that employees who work in green office environments, where they are surrounded by living plants, are significantly happier in their workplace than those who do not benefit from the same luxury. In fact, the subsequent boost to morale was said to result in a 15 percent increase in productivity over the duration of the study.

Further evidence of this was presented in a recent Human Spaces Global Report, which stated that indoor plants, as well as the presence of natural light, rank among the most requested elements in the workplace. In addition to boosting morale, the report also found that the inclusion of these office elements led to an increase in creativity, which is important for productivity, because creative people are less likely to get stuck on a single task.

2. Increased cognition

The concept of cognition – which refers to the process of acquiring knowledge and processing information – is extremely important when studying productivity, because it is linked to everything from basic comprehension and working memory, to problem solving, evaluation and decision making. Therefore, one of the best ways to improve productivity is to boost cognition and help employees to acquire and process knowledge more efficiently.

A recent Harvard study, which centred on ten high-performing buildings across the United States, attempted to evaluate the relationship between conditions inside a building and the productivity and overall well-being of the occupants. Throughout the study, it was found that those who work in office buildings with certified green credentials benefit from a 26 percent boost in cognition.

Essentially, this means that greener offices have the capacity to improve the thought processing, problem solving and decision making abilities of employees, which can have a huge knock-on effect on productivity. One of the potential explanations for this improvement is that greener offices can improve the sleep quality of occupants. In this particular study, participants in green certified offices reported a 6 percent rise in quality of sleep.

3. Superior comfort

Another key reason why greener, more sustainable office buildings can end up functioning as more productive workplaces is because they often provide increased levels of comfort. When employees feel more comfortable in the office, they tend to be less irritable, less easily distracted, more likely to be able to maintain concentration for prolonged periods of time and, therefore, more likely to produce a decent output.

One of the most important office interior design services to seek out if you are attempting to enhance your green credentials and boost productivity is a better ventilation system. When ventilation is enhanced, air quality and temperatures in the office can be regulated more effectively. This alone has been shown to improve productivity by as much as 11 percent, according to findings from the World Green Business Council and JLL.

Meanwhile, ensuring employees have sufficient access to natural light and modernising any artificial lighting can help to resolve a number of issues related to productivity, including eye strain, which is a particular problem for workers who have to sit in front of a computer for large amounts of time. The report from the World Green Business Council suggests that lighting improvements can boost efficiencies by 23 percent.

4. Reduced absenteeism

Superior air quality, lighting and greater overall green credentials can also have a significant impact on employee well-being. Indeed, research suggests that there are major opportunities to cut absenteeism, by reducing instances of illness, which is important for overall productivity. As a result, this is another area where working with commercial interior designers to create a greener workplace will pay dividends.

A clear exmaple of this was seen when Skanska made changes to their premises in Doncaster, England. This primarily consisted of improvements to their ventilation system and the inclusion of a central lighting well, introducing more natural light into the workplace. The result was that Skanska reduced the number of sick days employees took by two-thirds, saving the company approximately £28,000 per year.

Such improvements are commonplace. In fact, the aforementioned Harvard study found that green-certified office buildings experience an average reduction in sickness related absences of 30 percent. Meanwhile, the Human Spaces Global Report found that employees in green office buildings report 15 percent greater levels of well-being. That particular report also highlighted the potential of green, sustainable offices in reducing mental health problems.

5. Conclusion

Over recent years, businesses have been increasingly keen to demonstrate their green credentials, for a variety of reasons, and as companies continue to experience tangible benefits from making their workplaces more sustainable and environmentally-friendly, this trend is only likely to grow further. In particular, research has repeatedly demonstrated value of greener office buildings in terms of increasing productivity.

Studies have shown that improvements to ventilation, the inclusion of natural elements like plants, and the sufficient provision of natural light in place of artificial light can help to make employees feel happier, more comfortable, better able to process information and less likely to take days off through illness, all of which results in greater output.

Reno Macri

Reno Macri is Director of Enigma Visual Solutions, a UK based commercial interior designers specialising in office space planning, office interior design & office branding.

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