How ‘green offices’ affect productivity

by Lauren Acurantes16 Nov 2016
How much can your physical workspace affect your productivity and your health and well-being?

A lot, it turns out as researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and SUNY Upstate Medical University found that “working in green-certified buildings was associated with higher cognitive function scores, fewer sick building symptoms and higher sleep quality scores”. 

In their study of 109 workers in buildings spread across the US, they discovered that participants showed 26% higher cognitive function skills in green buildings.

Addtionally, employees showed:
•    73% higher crisis response scores;
•    44% higher applied activity level scores geared towards decision-making;
•    38% higher focus; and
•    31% higher strategy scores.

They also reported 30% fewer sick building symptoms and 6% higher sleep quality scores compared to those working in buildings that were not green-certified.

“We’re advocating for what we call Buildingomics - a new approach that examines the totality of factors in the building-related environment,” said lead study author Dr. Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Through Buildingomics’ multi-disciplinary approach, we aim to better understand the factors that influence health in buildings and unlock the ability to optimise buildings for improved cognitive function and health.”

Green buildings in Singapore
According to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) in Singapore, as of May 2016, there are more than 2,700 Green Mark building projects in the country – a clear indication of how companies are putting value on green working environments.

But if your offices are currently in a non-green marked building, there are still ways you can create a better environment, according to the World Green Building Council.

They said there are six key factors employers can take note of:

1)    Indoor air quality and ventilation – a well-ventilated office can double cognitive ability;
2)    Thermal comfort – too hot and staff performance can fall 6%, too cold and it goes down 4%;
3)    Daylighting and lighting – workers in offices with windows slept 46 minutes more at night than those without;
4)    Noise and acoustics – noise distractions led to 66% drop in performance and concentration;
5)    Interior layout and active design – flexible working environment to help staff feel more in control; and
6)    Biophilia and views – views of nature can help ease stress and gain productivity.

“Certified green buildings not only deliver environmental benefits, they can have positive impacts on the productivity and thinking of the people in those buildings. That’s a powerful combination that can accelerate the green building movement globally,” said John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer at United Technologies.

“Something as simple as improving air quality through retrofit ventilation projects can already increase the environment and cognitive performance for workers,” he added.

Related stories:

Are your HR initiatives eco-friendly?

How workforce management strategies are changing 

Striking the right work-life balance

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