Stale air. Outdated lighting that’s a little too light. Stuffy, tired workspaces that used to be inspiring. Every office needs a makeover now and then, and that can mean a perfect chance not only to refresh the office experience and renew employee engagement — but also to re-green. Yes, re-green: after all, sustainability features have come a long way, too. Overwhelming evidence tells us that green office space is not only a win for the planet and your bottom line (think: energy savings), but also offers important employee health and wellness benefits.
We spend about 90 percent of our days indoors. More than just a backdrop, the office setting and its environmental conditions are deeply connected with human health and, in turn, our ability and desire to do great work. Consider a compelling Harvard study that found that cognitive function is 61 percent higher in green buildings with clean indoor air.
A blueprint that puts people first? Make way for green
Drawing the line from green to productive is not just about physical construction and design, though that’s important. It’s also about how space and resources are used over time. Here are a few key areas for green improvement during any refresh or rehab — and beyond:
- Green lights, great payoff. Many offices have outdated lighting systems, often dating back to the long-ago days before computer screens took over our desks, and before the health and productivity benefits of daylight were well understood. You can definitely save energy by investing in LED lighting and smart controls that automatically dim the lights based on daylight levels and occupancy rather than preset timetables — 40 percent of it, in our case. But quality lighting design with increased daylight availability and proper light levels can also lead to enormous gains for worker productivity and satisfaction. Improved daylighting and other lighting improvements drives up productivity by +5.5 percent.
- Cleaner air makes for healthier employees. Poor office air quality has been shown to directly influence employee performance and absenteeism. And for the many of us who spend a sizable part of each day inside an office, fresher air has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? We opted to use no-VOC paints and sealants throughout our space, ensuring healthy, easy breathing. Bonus: improved thermal comfort and ventilation improves productivity by another +5 percent.
- Waste not, want not. Recycling doesn’t just happen because bins are available. It’s also about the culture — and the convenience.
- Give ‘em something to talk about — and to take pride in: Low-flush and low-flow water fixtures cut our water use by 35 percent, saving 500,000 gallons annually. Sustainably harvested wood means we aren’t relying on lumber from vulnerable rainforests. Major, often visible tokens of corporate responsibility like these can be points of pride for today’s increasingly environmentally conscious workforce.
- Extend value through culture. To be truly effective, sustainability measures must be woven into the fabric of an organization’s culture, whether that means setting up green teams to manage incentives for green and greener behavior, or maintaining an eco-friendly cleaning program.
Sustainability, refreshed: A win for small and large renovation projects alike
You don’t have to own the building for occupants to feel pride and engaged in their workplace. Nor is a massive renovation necessary to achieve some of these productivity benefits. No matter what your project’s size or scale, the key to success is to look not only at up-front costs, but also at the potential impact on the overall employee experience.
Impact on people is where the true value lies for any office renewal program — and re-greening will help move the needle with your workforce.
Credit: Work Design Magazine