Office design should focus on people, not just the work they do
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Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices

Aug 28, 2015 ∙ 4 mins read
Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices

The WorldGBC‘s latest impressive report – ‘Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices: The Next Chapter for Green Building‘ – shows that the design and the environment of an office significantly impacts the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants.

Business success

The report also reveals that the health and wellbeing of employees impact the financial results of the company.

A modest improvement in employee health or productivity, can have a huge financial implication for employers – one that is many
times larger than any other financial savings associated with an efficiently designed and operated building.

And also leads to successful business in the long-term.

A healthy, happy workforce is a vital component of a productive, successful business in the long-term.

If we better understand the relationship between the office, people and organisational performance, the potential for practical application is significant. This includes due diligence on new space, rent review on existing space, fit-out guidance on refurbished space, and so on.

The physical office environment

The report showed 9 points evidence that the office environment and design can have real impact on the health, wellbeing and performance of the employees.

  • Indoor Air Quality: The health and productivity benefits of good indoor air quality (IAQ) are well established. This can be indicated by low concentrations of CO2 and pollutants, and high ventilation rates. It would be unwise to suggest that the results of individual studies, even meta-analyses, are automatically replicable for any organisation. However, with this important caveat, a comprehensive body of research can be drawn on to suggest that productivity improvements of 8-11% are not uncommon as a result of better air quality.
  • Thermal comfort: This is very closely related to Indoor Air Quality, and indeed separating out the benefits is difficult. However, the relationship is clear, with research demonstrating that thermal comfort has a significant impact on workplace satisfaction. Suggesting a general rule about the size of productivity gains is not a robust exercise because of the importance of specific circumstances and the lack of comparability between studies. However, studies consistently show that even modest degrees of personal control over thermal comfort can return single digit improvements in productivity. The importance of personal control applies to other factors too, including lighting.
  • Daylighting & lighting: Good lighting is crucial for occupant satisfaction, and our understanding of the health and wellbeing benefits of light is growing all the time. It can be difficult to separate out the benefits of daylight – greater nearer a window, of course – from the benefits of views out of the window. Several studies in the last decade have estimated productivity gains as a result of proximity to windows, with experts now thinking that the views out are probably the more significant factor, particularly where the view offers a connection to nature.
  • Biophilia: The rise of biophilia, the suggestion that we have an instinctive bond to nature, is a growing theme in the research. A growing scientific understanding of biophilic design, and the positive impact of green space and nature on (particularly) mental health, has implications for those involved in office design and fit-out, developers and urban planners alike.
  • Noise: Being productive in the modern knowledge-based office is practically impossible when noise provides an unwanted distraction. This can be a major cause of dissatisfaction amongst occupants.
  • Interior layout: Noise distraction relates closely (although by no means solely) to interior layout. There are a whole range of fit-out issues that can have an effect on wellbeing and productivity, including workstation density and configuration of work space, breakout space and social space. These factors influence not just noise but concentration, collaboration, confidentiality and creativity. Many companies instinctively know this and regularly engage in exercises to optimize layout. However, the research that informs this remains less quantifiable and needs to be further developed.
  • Look & feel: The same could be said about research around office ‘look and feel’, which is seen as superficial by some, and yet should be taken seriously as having a potential impact on wellbeing and mindset – both for occupier and visiting clients. Look and feel (and interior layout), being highly subjective, is something which is likely to be experienced differently by people of different age, gender and culture.
  • Active design & exercise: A guaranteed route to improved health is exercise. This can be encouraged by active design within the building, and access to services and amenities such as gyms, bicycle storage and green space, some of which may be inside the office building or office grounds, or in the local vicinity. There is not a huge amount of research on the link between exercise and office-based productivity, although that which does exist suggests a lower number of sick days for those who cycle to work.
  • Amenities & location: The local availability of amenities and services are increasingly recognized in research as being important for occupiers. Childcare in particular can be the difference between working and not working on a given day, and in the relatively few studies that have tried to quantify it, the financial impact for employers has been significant.

Wellbeing and Productivity in Coworking Spaces

Health, Welbeing and Performance

The report concluded the following flow chart of how the health, wellbeing and performance are related to the different office environments.

  • Occupant health outcomes:
    • Indoor air quality and ventilation
    • Thermal Comfort
  • Occupant wellbeing:
    • Daylighting & lighting
    • Noise and acoustics
    • Interior layout and active design
  • Performance and financial results:
    • Biophilia and views
    • Look and feel
    • Location and access to amenities

“ We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us” Winston Churchill

OfficeRnD

All these findings are no surprise for the OfficeRnD team. They actually shape one of the biggest challenges we want to address and that is how to make your life healthier and happier in the office,thus raising both your productivity and creativity. Our mission is to:

  1. Raise the awareness of the importance of Office space planning and design.
  2. Provide you with the knowledge you need to improve the office space and environment yourself.
  3. Give you the tools:
    1. to plan your office space;
    2. to collaborate with all involved parties – employees, designers and managers.
  4. Turn your organization into a Happy, Healthy and Productive family.

We give you everything you need to create a stunning free office space plan. What is more, we make it fun and hassle-free. You don’t really need any design or architectural skills, just sign up for OfficeRnD and get started.

Here comes the real deal – if you sign up by the end of February 2015, you will get a one year  OfficeRnD Business plan subscription for free.

Read the full or the summary version of the report on the Worldgbc website.