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Can a greener office really boost workplace productivity?

Of course, many will still believe that this is just the latest ‘fad’ and that the huge sum of money being invested in greener office design is just a waste. However, a recent study from Harvard has found that office design not only plays a huge part in our professional life, but can actually continue to have an impact on our well-being when we get home as well.

For the study, researchers examined 10 high-performing buildings across five US cities in order to study the relationship between the conditions inside the building and both the productivity and well-being of the occupants. It emerged that when we work in green-certified offices, we get a 26% boost in cognition and 30% fewer sickness related absences. What's more, respondents also reported a 6% rise in their sleep quality.

The Harvard study results are backed up by a number of other previous studies which focused on the impact greenery can have on our productivity. For instance, an Exeter University study found that employees were 15% more productive when working in a 'green' office than their peers. A greener office appeared to provide a boost to employee engagement, concentration levels and perceived air quality, all showing a rise after the introduction of plants into the office.

So, this seems to suggest that it pays to invest in greener offices which keep employees healthy and happy, but where do you start? The World Green Building Council has developed a simple framework to help companies take action. It calls on them to assess key environmental factors which affect health and wellbeing, survey employees to find out how they experience them, and measure the economic factors they influence, such as productivity and absenteeism. Their study ‘Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices’ identifies eight key factors in creating healthier and greener offices which can impact on the bottom line:

·Indoor Air Quality and Ventilation - a well-ventilated office can double cognitive ability

·Thermal Comfort - staff performance can fall 6% if offices are too hot and 4% if they too cold

·Daylighting and Lighting- workers in offices with windows got 46 minutes more sleep a night than workers without them

·Noise and Acoustics - noise distractions led to 66% drop in performance and concentration

·Interior Layout and Active Design - flexible working helps staff feel more in control of workload and encourages loyalty

·Biophilia and Views - processing time at one call centre improved by 7-12% when staff had a view of nature

·Look and Feel - visual appeal is a major factor in workplace satisfaction

·Location and Access to Amenities - a Dutch cycle to work scheme saved €27m in absenteeism.

​So, it seems that there may well be something to this latest ‘fad’ and greener offices can actually make a real impact on productivity.