New re­search: Wood a key plank in the busi­ness case for bring­ing na­ture into the of­fice

World first new re­search

Australasian Timber - - NEWS -

Em­ploy­ers look­ing to boost worker pro­duc­tiv­ity should con­sider us­ing more of one of the world’s old­est and most sus­tain­able ma­te­ri­als in their of­fice fit-outs: wood. That’s the take­out from world-first re­search by strate­gic mar­ket re­search firm Pol­li­nate and the Uni­ver­sity of Can­berra. Based on a sur­vey of 1000 in­door Aus­tralian work­ers, the re­search pro­vides fresh ev­i­dence to un­der­pin the busi­ness case for bio­philia – the prin­ci­ple that ex­po­sure to na­ture in­creases hu­man well­be­ing. The study paints a bleak pic­ture of work­ers’ cur­rent ac­cess to na­ture at work with less than half (47%) en­joy­ing ac­cess to nat­u­ral light, only two in five (38%) be­ing able to see in­door plants, a quar­ter (26%) un­able to see any nat­u­ral look­ing wooden sur­faces and al­most half (46%) spend­ing less than an hour out­doors on work days. The study found that the more nat­u­ral look­ing wooden sur­faces work­ers could see from their work­sta­tion, the higher their work­place sat­is­fac­tion and well­be­ing. Ahead of an ad­dress to the Green Cities con­fer­ence in Mel­bourne, As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Jacki Schirmer from the Uni­ver­sity of Can­berra said the re­sults held true even af­ter rig­or­ous anal­y­sis that con­trolled for fac­tors known to im­pact on the well­be­ing of work­ers such as age, in­come, gen­der and work­place cul­ture. “These re­sults are ex­cit­ing, for the first time pro­vid­ing solid ev­i­dence to sup­port the use of wood as part of bring­ing na­ture into workplaces,” she said. “We are al­ways look­ing for ways to im­prove health and well­be­ing, and this re­search points to ways we can achieve that in the places many peo­ple spend a lot of their time – the work­place. “The work has im­pli­ca­tions for busi­nesses, be­cause a large body of re­search has shown that work­ers who are more sat­is­fied with their work and have higher well­be­ing have bet­ter work pro­duc­tiv­ity, and re­duced rates of ab­sen­teeism – which means im­prov­ing worker well­be­ing has real ben­e­fits for busi­nesses.” Over 80 per cent of work­ers (82%) ex­posed to eight or more wooden sur­faces in their work­place re­ported be­ing ‘sat­is­fied or very sat­is­fied’ with work, com­pared to over two thirds (69%) ex­posed to five to seven wooden sur­faces and half (53%) with no wooden sur­faces. Em­ploy­ees work­ing in of­fices with nat­u­ral wooden sur­faces on av­er­age also re­ported higher per­sonal pro­duc­tiv­ity, mood, con­cen­tra­tion, clar­ity, con­fi­dence and op­ti­mism. The ef­fect on well­be­ing was great­est when wood was used in com­bi­na­tion with other nat­u­ral el­e­ments such as plants, wa­ter fea­tures and nat­u­ral light. As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Schirmer said: “We know it’s good for us to spend time out­doors in­ter­act­ing with na­ture, but with peo­ple spend­ing so much time in­doors, there’s in­creas­ing recog­ni­tion of the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of bring­ing na­ture into the work­place and the home. “The aca­demic world is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly switched on to bio­philia as an area war­rant­ing real re­search and at­ten­tion, and some en­gi­neer­ing de­grees are start­ing to in­clude it as a sub­ject. “Im­por­tantly, wood is a par­tic­u­larly use­ful tool for bring­ing na­ture into the work­place in sit­u­a­tions where it is not fea­si­ble to retro-fit other changes, such as in­creased nat­u­ral light.”

BHP Bil­li­ton Bris­bane, Queens­land – credit pho­tog­ra­phy Christo­pher Fred­er­ick Jones, Ar­chi­tects BVN

No­var­tis Aus­tralia Head­quar­ters Mac­quarie Park, New South Wales – credit Ar­chi­tects HDR/Rice Daub­ney

As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Jacki Schirmer.

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