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Green office = productive employees?

The next time one of your employees complains that they’re too hot, or screen glare is giving them a headache, you might want to take it more seriously.

New research has found that an environmentally-focused workplace leads to greater employee satisfaction, and an energy efficient office design not only saves on fuel, it also increases productivity.

A report from the British Council for Offices (BCO) highlights the positive impact that environmental awareness can have on employees.

BE - green offices

With many workers spending at least 40 hours a week in the office, it’s important that their wellbeing is looked after. The happier they are, the fewer sick days they’re likely to take, and you’ll also have a better chance of retaining them.

Currently, energy and water costs account for just 1% of business costs, while staff costs account for a whopping 90% of expenses, but the report shows that by focusing more attention on utilities, business performance can be boosted. In fact, it suggests that improved energy efficiency may represent a saving of as much as £50 per square metre.

Another survey, by One Poll, found that less than a quarter of people think their office is the ideal temperature throughout the year, and workers can waste up to eight minutes a day altering air-conditioning systems, changing layers of clothing and opening and closing windows in an attempt to achieve their preferred atmosphere.

Employee feedback

The BCO report also highlights the importance of getting feedback from staff, and addressing any concerns they have about their working environment. For example, a complaint about glare could lead to the lighting control system being overhauled. Making investment decisions based on employee feedback has the potential to transform productivity levels and reduce business costs.

Satisfaction levels can be measured by asking staff to complete a questionnaire on things such as air quality in summer, temperature in winter and overall comfort.

One such way of doing this is by using the Building Use Studies (BUS) methodology, which is an established way of addressing the performance of an office and its installed systems. It summarises the feedback from occupants and provides a comparison with similar buildings.

It looks at aspects such as thermal comfort, ventilation, indoor air quality, lighting, personal control, noise, perceived productivity, space, design, image and needs.

The BUS method was used to evaluate the Elizabeth Fry building at the University of East Anglia. When the results revealed that users weren’t happy with the temperature in winter, perimeter panel heaters were subsequently installed to address the problem.

Shift in attitudes

Companies should also monitor their energy use and set improvement targets, getting everyone to change their behaviour – starting by powering down computers at night so they’re not left on standby, and making sure that the last person to leave the office turns off the lights. Little things like that can save you money and make your staff feel more responsible about their working environment. Revealing data on energy performance lets them see the effects of their efforts.

BCO’s chief executive Richard Kauntze said: “This research shows that environmentally efficient offices have a positive impact on employee satisfaction, and as a result can lead to improved business performance.

“In order to reap the rewards, companies need to ensure their offices are delivering energy efficiency. It represents a significant shift in attitudes, whereby the actual environmental performance of buildings is in the spotlight and the industry has moved away from focusing on the planning, design and construction of offices as a way of assessing performance.”

 

Posted by Julie Tucker