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8 April 2015
Office design proven to influence employee productivity

The Human Spaces report into The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, commissioned by global modular flooring experts, Interface and led by Organizational Psychologist, Professor Sir Cary Cooper, has revealed that employees who work in environments with natural elements report a 15% higher level of well-being, are 6% more productive and 15% more creative overall.

The Human Spaces global study of 7,600 office workers, in 16 countries, examined the impact of the physical office environment on employee well-being. It concluded office design was so important to workers that a third (33%) of global respondents stated it would unequivocally affect their decision whether or not to work somewhere. Incredibly, design was even more vital in India (67%), Indonesia (62%) and the Philippines (60%) where two thirds of office workers were significantly influenced by workplace design.

Lack of natural light linked to increased levels of employee stress

Globally, nearly half (47%) of office employees have no natural light in their working environment, and almost two thirds (58%) have no live plants in their workspace. In Canada 32% of workers reported having no windows. This was closely followed by Australia and the US, with 28% and 27% of workers respectively reporting having no windows. Interestingly, these three countries all reported above average levels of stress. Conversely, workers in Indonesia and India reported some the highest levels of light and space at 93% and 92% respectively, and reported some of the lowest levels of unhappiness.

Commenting on the research findings, Professor Sir Cary Cooper, said: “The benefit of design inspired by nature, known as biophilic design, is accumulating evidence at a rapid pace. Looking at a snapshot of global working environments, up to one in five people have no natural elements within their workspace and alarmingly nearly 50% of workers have no natural light. Yet a third of us say that workplace design would affect our decision to join a company. There’s a big disparity here and one that hints at workplace design only recently rising to prominence as a crucial factor.”

Most wanted elements in office space:

  1. Natural light

  2. Live indoor plants

  3. Quiet working space

  4. View of the sea

  5. Bright colours

Solo work space linked to productivity

In terms of working space, nearly two fifths (39%) of workers said they would feel most productive at their own desk in a solitary office. In terms of having a preference for solo space, Germany, China and Canada reported figures way above the global average, with 59%, 52% and 50%, respectively, suggesting they prefer a solitary environment.

36% of respondents would feel most productive at their own desk in an open plan office. Interestingly, individual data from certain countries was much higher: Spain (48%); Australia (48%); India (46%); and Brazil (46%) - indicating that collaborative working is much more important to them than the global average.

Global urbanization

The data demonstrates that 85% of global office workers surveyed are based in an urban environment and the largest proportion of respondents spent between 40 – 49 hours per week in the office. Despite city dominated lives, the research found workers have an inherent affinity to elements that reflect nature.

Professor Sir Cary Cooper adds: “As well as enabling organizations to make links between their physical spaces and the performance of their people, this study throws light on one of the defining challenges of modern life – our ability to cope with urbanization and loss of connection with green spaces.”

Commenting on what the research findings could mean for design in the office space, Chip DeGrace, Executive Creative Director at Interface, said: “What we can clearly identify is that there needs to be an ongoing evolution of the traditional office space, and it seems that as a global population, we are becoming ever more cognizant of our surroundings and how they impact our well-being, productivity and creativity at work.

“Biophilic design is the art of understanding how nature can influence us and how we can bring those sorts of influences into the spaces within which we work. We can see that working in environments with natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, leads to a higher level of well-being and productivity, which is an important consideration for any business in terms of responsibility to its employees. What’s more, the research indicated that by incorporating simple design elements which help to create a connection to nature, known as biophilic design, a business could potentially boost the productivity of its employees by 6% - a significant benefit to the bottom line of any company.”

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