According to a report by World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), office design is a key factor in what influences the health, well-being and job satisfaction of staff. As a result, green buildings are on the rise, with sustainability being the main focal point, as studies link sustainability with increased worker productivity.
Included in the report was a toolkit that can help employers assess the productivity and health of their staff. Financial metrics were suggested such as absenteeism, staff turnover and number of medical complaints. Revenue was also broken down by department and building to look for correlations. Physical metrics were studied and things like office environment, free space, temperature and access to windows or sunlight, taken into account. Perceptual metrics were used to look at how people commented on their own health, well-being and productivity levels in the workplace. Staff expressing gratitude or concern was a good indicator of how they felt.
The WorldGBC found that a number of influences affected employee satisfaction. Air quality, lighting, views of nature and office layout had a significant effect on job performance of office workers.
Understanding the connection between worker and workplace
The report by WorldGBC, in addition to giving employers the toolkit, advised on the best practices when it comes to optimizing the office for employee health and wellness. Understanding the connection between worker and workplace helps businesses strive to provide a healthier and higher quality building for their staff. Quality buildings are appreciated by investors, developers and tenants, because they offer increased return on investment with regards to staff, among other benefits. A healthy staff works harder and contributes more to the business.
Salaries and benefits in most companies comprise the main portion of a company's operating costs. If construction or office development costs increase slightly in the effort to improve a workplace environment, the benefits ultimately far outweigh the cost. Staff performance will be enhanced if the office is designed with the well-being of employees in mind.
Chief Executive of World Green Building Council Jane Henley made it clear that greener buildings should be developed, invested in and occupied by companies for increased business success.
"The evidence linking good office design and improved health, wellbeing and productivity of staff is now overwhelming," said Henley.
Another report by the WorldGBC, published in 2013, explained exactly how green buildings contribute to employee wellness and productivity and several key points were mentioned.
Indoor air quality was found to be better in green buildings, as there are lower levels of C02 and pollutants and improved ventilation. Research found that thermal comfort had an impact on workplace satisfaction with employees being able to control temperature – especially when employees could control the temperature themselves. Studies showed that lighting and views of nature inspired productivity gains and that windows were a crucial element in improving morale. Research on noise and acoustics confirmed what is already fairly obvious – that unwanted noise is distracting and causes dissatisfaction for workers. The way an office is configured and the layout of workstations and social space seemed to significantly impact creativity, concentration and collaboration. Access to gyms and green spaces where employees could perform physical exercise also encouraged healthy lifestyles and resulted in more positive mindsets for staff.
Sustainability good for morale
Jonathan Jordan, senior partner and founder of Sermelo, a business consultancy, explained that in addition to improving health and wellness of employees, sustainable companies harnessed a positive attitude in employees, according to Business Green. He argued that sustainability in a business led to employees developing two distinct feelings. First, that they work for an ethical organization that makes commitments to improve itself and set tangible goals. Second, Jordan explained, employees working for a sustainable company, on a personal level, were motivated and inspired to pursue sustainable practices in their own lives.
Group head of sustainability at Lend Lease, Geoff Dutaillis, believes the benefits of sustainability are seen across all industries.
"Whatever business you are in, you are in the business of people. How a building 'works for people' should be the priority question. This report provides further evidence that workplaces with clean air, natural daylight and engaging and adaptable layouts all contribute to making healthier, happier and more motivated individuals who create stronger, more resilient and profitable companies," said Dutaillis, in a WorldGBC press release.