Green Office Design Linked to Productivity

Oct. 23, 2014

Study shows seven key areas to increase worker engagement. 

While the environmental benefits of green offices continue to be demonstrated, a new report from the World Green Business Council shows that sustainable, evidence-backed office design can also have a positive impact on worker productivity.

Presented at the GreenBuild International Conference and Expo, Health, Wellbeing, & Productivity in Offices: The Next Chapter for Green Building, notes the rate of absenteeism in the U.S. is 3% in the private sector and 4% in the public sector. The associated business costs amount to $2,000-$2,500 per employee per year. 

With the high cost of any loss of worker productivity, the report outlines seven key areas where green features are known to improve occupant productivity or health: 

1) Indoor Air Quality: With the wide range of chemicals, micro-organisms, and particles that office occupants are typically exposed to, the quality of workplace air is a high driver of productivity, with studies showing that improved ventilation can increase productivity by as much as 11%. 

2) Thermal Comfort: While being closely related to IAQ, thermal comfort is also crucial to successful occupant engagement – with performance dropping 4% in cooler temperatures and 6% when it’s too warm. Studies have also shown that by giving occupants some control over the temperature of their workspace, they’re more willing to adapt to a wider temperature range. 

3) Daylighting and Lighting: Numerous studies have found that access to windows increases worker satisfaction and can even have benefits that extend beyond the workday.

4) Biophilia: There is growing evidence that workers with a view of nature from a window or those who have office plants near their workspace have higher levels of productivity than their counterparts without a connection to nature. Some studies have shown workers can increase their time-on-task by up to 15% due to the presence of a window with a view. 

5) Noise and Interior Layout: Possibly the most dramatic driver of occupant productivity is noise and acoustics, with studies showing up to a 66% drop in productivity when workers are exposed to various types of distracting background noise. The report cites research suggesting that installing physical design features and providing etiquette guidance to building occupants can be effective at reducing distractions and background noise in workplaces – which can be essential if workplace density is increasing due to expansion or renovation.

6) Look and Feel: The visual appeal of an office design is also mentioned as key to occupant satisfaction, with surveys showing that the aesthetics of a workplace can help with both retention and recruitment. 

7) Amenities and Location: Though the report notes that not as many studies have been conducted on the matter, those that have consistently point to facility location and the presence of accessible amenities such as healthcare, shops, gyms, and particularly childcare centers as having a large impact on occupant productivity, with one major employer finding that 68% of parents would have missed work if they’d not had access to the onsite childcare center.  

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