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Comfortable and healthy office spaces improve employee satisfaction and productivity. Given the high proportion of business costs spent on employees, such investments should be a no-brainer.


After our homes, we spend the next largest part of our lives at work. In the same way that populations have moved from rural environments into cities, so workplaces have also moved indoors, and especially into office environments.

Currently, an average of 36% of the European workforce (or 81.4 million people) work in an office environment, rising to more than 40% in some countries.

Healthy employees: a sound investment

Personnel costs, including salaries and benefits, typically account for about 90% of a business’ operating costs¹. This means that relatively small variations in workers’ productivity can have a large overall impact on a company’s performance and costs. Giving employees office environments conducive to good health and high productivity should be an obvious investment to make.

Office design has been shown to impact the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants, through considerations such as indoor air quality, thermal comfort, lighting and noise.

In a recent global study², one in three people said that the design of an office would affect their decision to work for a company. It also showed that natural light is the most sought-after element within the workplace, despite an astonishing 47% of workers saying that they have no natural light at all in their work environment.

Comfortable temperatures and plenty of fresh air

More than 80% of European workers in office-based sectors state that they are exposed to excessively high or low temperatures close to a quarter of the time³. Office temperatures above 23°C and below 20°C can decrease employee performance by up to 10%².

Studies show the positive effects of ventilation on building-related symptoms (such as fatigue, and irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat), comfort and productivity. Although ventilation rates in mechanically ventilated buildings are generally higher in cold seasons, buildings with mechanical ventilation systems or air conditioning can also have a higher prevalence of building-related symptoms when compared to naturally ventilated buildings.

The ideal is often hybrid ventilation, which combines air conditioning with windows that open (either automatically or manually).

Daylight boosts productivity…

Several studies show that the majority of people believe daylight is good for their general health, visual capabilities and productivity4. This finding is echoed by a 2018 YouGov study, in which 63% of respondents said they think daylight has a significant effect on productivity.

Another study5 examined workers in a call centre and in other office environments. Better access to views, along with improved daylight conditions, were found to significantly improve performance, with workers in the call centre processing calls 6% to 12% faster when they had the best possible view versus those with no view. Other office workers, meanwhile, were found to perform 10% to 25% better on tests of mental function and memory when they had the best possible view.

… and helps ensure a good night’s sleep after work

Another recent study6 by neuroscientists suggests that office workers with windows received 173% more daylight exposure during work hours, and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night.

Noise is a productivity-killer

Noise distractions can have a considerable impact on productivity. In fact, noise is one of the leading causes of office dissatisfaction. A 2012 study7 calculated that, in a well-managed office, average productivity loss through noise distractions in a typical eight-hour workday was around 70 minutes, while about 28% of European workers in office- based sectors state that they are exposed to loud noise³.

Reaping the benefits

Office employees spend 30% or more of their waking hours each year in offices. It makes sense, then, that businesses and governments look closely at what constitutes a productive, healthy indoor working environment in order to reap the productivity and wellbeing benefits that, over time, are likely to repay the additional investment many times over.

1 Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices, The next chapter for green building September 2014, World Green Building Council

2 HUMAN SPACES: The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, 2015: www.humanspaces.com

3 European Working Conditions Survey: https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/data/european-working-conditions-survey

4 Galasiu, AD, Veitch, JA. Occupant preferences and satisfaction with the luminous environment and control systems in daylit offices: a literature review. Energy Build 2006; 38: 728–742.

5 Heschong Mahone Group (2003) Windows and Offices: A Study of Office Worker Performance and the Indoor Environment: http://h-m-g.com/downloads/Daylighting/A-9_Windows_Offices_2.6.10.pdf

6 Chueng I. (2013) Impact of workplace daylight exposure on sleep, physical activity, and quality of life. American Academy of Sleep Medicine 36

7 Harvard Business Review, 17 May 2012

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