Is The Environment At Your Office Affecting Your Productivity?

27th October, 2014 by

Kelly Kirkham looks at the results of a recent study that reveals that little tweaks to the workplace can lead to big changes in employee efficiency…

While at work, do you ever take time to really look at the decor? How about the lighting? Do you feel like the aesthetic aspect of your cubicle is lacking luster? If so, your business could be losing thousands of dollars in lost productivity and recruitment.

At least that’s the implication of the latest research carried out by The World Green Building Council. Their latest study details the relationship between the offices we work in and how their basic layout and design could affect our productivity and health, costing employers a pretty penny.

World GBC states, “Our new report finds overwhelming evidence that office design significantly impacts the health, wellbeing, and productivity of staff.”


According to GBC, the employee health concerns affected by the physical office environment included, headaches, eye strain/damage, skin irritation, infections, fatigue, seasonal affective disorder, breathing disorders, stress and depression, and other cardiovascular and physical complaints. Each of these could be affected by the forty plus hours a week we spend at the workplace.

The costs of ill-health and absenteeism to businesses depend on the country and location. In the UK employers lose £30 billion each year in lost production, recruitment, and absence due to poor health. In the US, the annual absenteeism rate is three to four percent per employee, costing employers between $2074 and $2,502 per employee each year.

Typical staff costs, including salary, benefits and human resources, account for 90 percent or more of a business’ total operating costs. For companies with thousands of employees, this is no drop in the bucket and it might be well worth the time and energy to spruce up the office a bit.

To accumulate the data for the World GBC report, teams of experts were assembled and tasked to investigate a wide range of office factors. The summary of evidence includes a detailed study on indoor air quality, thermal comfort, daylighting and lighting, noise, interior layout, look and feel, active design and exercise, amenities and location, as well as biophilia. (The term biophilia comes from a hypothesis in 1984 that suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living and nonliving systems.)

The reports suggest that most of the data needed to decide whether a business needs an office spruce up can be taken from within the company’s operational records, and with a little organization, any company can determine exactly how much redecorating or renovating can improve their costs.

However, if you don’t have much time, many other small changes like letting employees control their own indoor temperature or maximizing the amount of natural daylight within the office can drastically improve satisfaction, productivity, energy, and performance, too.   Potted-plant

For example, the data reported that there was a four percent reduction in performance when the office is too cold and a six percent reduction in performance when the office is too hot. The data also showed that employees who sit near a window slept on average 46 minutes longer per night versus those without access to natural daylight. The biggest shock was a 66 percent drop in performance when employees were exposed to a distracting or persistent noise. This means that the construction out on the street is not only annoying, but it is costing everyone time and money as a collective whole.

It is apparent that the comfort within our workspace and our productivity is a complex relationship, but a relationship that could grow with a little attention. Studies show that the simple act of adding a common houseplant to your workspace can change the air quality, filtration, and moisture levels in your surroundings.

Although these seem to be small problems, a change in the way we think about the office can greatly impact employees. Not only does the employee benefit from office environmental consciousness, but the company itself will reap the benefits of the reduction in operational costs, not to mention the benefits to our planet as a whole.

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