The Living Office
How your office affects your helath and productivity
Buildings are a big-ticket item for any organisation. In these economically stressed times splashing out on an open plan, naturally lit HQ complete with snazzy eco-gadgets might seem like a luxury.
But it isn’t. In fact, research increasingly proves that organisations gritting their teeth in dingy surroundings to save cash are in fact losing more than they save in sick days and lost productivity. And if your boss thinks a bunker-type atmosphere cuts down on distractions, they are wrong.
Dr Sandy Bond, Professor of Property Studies at Lincoln University, has written extensively on sustainable building design: “The problem has been that productivity and health benefits are much harder to assess and measure with any degree of accuracy than the more easily quantifiable energy and water savings from green buildings,” she says. “However, there are a growing number of such studies that demonstrate the correlation between improvements in indoor air quality, better lighting and building comfort and worker health and productivity.”
For example, a study on a utility company’s call-centre and desk office work spaces by the California Energy Commission found better views meant better productivity, provided there was no glare from windows onto screens. In 2002 an office building in Melbourne underwent a retrofit including a new chilled beam air conditioning system. Research there showed a 44% reduction in the monthly average cost of sick leave, a 9% improvement in the average typing speed of secretaries and a significant improvement in overall accuracy.
And a long-term assessment from the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering suggests the costs of ownership and maintenance of a building is typically only about 3% of the cost of the people working in it. So it’s make sense to invest in the company’s most valuable asset.
According to a report by the Green Building Council of Australia this message is getting through, and organisations have become less focused on savings in operating costs, and are placing a higher value on the less tangible benefits, like productivity, staff attraction and retention, and reduced sick leave and absenteeism.
Alex Cutler, chief executive of the New Zealand Green Building Council, says: “Some of the aspects that influence staff productivity include ventilation and the amount of fresh air coming into the building, appropriate lighting, including access to daylight but also reduction of glare, regulation of temperature fluctuations and the limitations of noise.”
“The first Green Star rated building in New Zealand was the Meridian building on the Wellington waterfront and the increase in perceived productivity was phenomenal. Translate that into impact on operational costs, specifically labour costs, and the payback period on a green certified building is extremely swift.”