Are nature-starved offices affecting employee well-being?
Ways in which to optimize the office to encourage a constructive work environment is an ongoing topic of interest for employers. Much of the related research has been focused on the organization of space, which has seen us move from a world of cubicles, to open, collaborative zones no longer restricted by barriers.
Professor Sir Cary Cooper of Robertson Copper, in partnership with flooring company INTERFACE, delve into this subject further with the human spaces report — a result of a recent study conducted on 3600 office workers in eight countries across Europe (Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, UK and UAE), revealing the impact of natural elements integrated into workplace design, and their effect on employee well-being, productivity and creativity.
Looking at how environmental factors influence business outcomes, the evaluation found that employees working in surroundings that offered such aspects as natural sunlight and greenery, reported a 13 percent higher level of comfort and were eight per cent more effective in their tasks than their nature-starved counterparts.
The Human Spaces Report gathered some interesting numbers in relation to this — that up to two fifths of European office employees have no natural light in their working environment, more than half don’t have access to any greenery in their office, and seven per cent don’t have a window in their immediate workplace; suggesting that though conditions are satisfactory, many are not encouraging positive growth and development amongst their staff.
Though many office workers are living in large city metropolises, with increasingly limited access to nature, they all share an affinity to connect with the natural world. Thus it is no surprise that businesses that boast spatial designs that have explicit references to nature, biophilic design to give it its real name, generally produce employees that are happier, more productive and have improved long-term health over those who don’t.
Increasingly, employers are designing work spaces specifically envisioned to help their teams thrive, collaborate and be more creative, considering the impact of light and space, window views, natural elements (stone, wood, foliage) within the office and the use of particular colors to evoke various feelings of enthusiasm, creativity, productivity, motivation and happiness… for example, the colors of yellow, blue and green are preferable hues of choice, reflecting our biophilic connections with the natural world as they are associated to the sun, sea and land respectively.
The Human Spaces Report highlights these different approaches to biophilic design within the workplace, which natural factors had deeper impressions in the various countries included in the study, and their resulting impact on the development of positive emotional experiences for individuals.
Whether being a direct connection to nature or a symbolic one, the extensive human spaces report showed the importance of biophilic design on the planning of office spaces; and that having employees immersed in settings rich with botanic and organic conditions is a big part of a business’s success, regardless of the industry, to maintain positive levels of well-being, and to keep performance at an optimal levels.