Most employees would forego major perks for this ‘biophilic’ office environment

The modern, city-dwelling American is almost completely removed from nature. The prototypical urban office is devoid of green space. Oftentimes, natural light is blocked out with blinds. And, in most cases, those that bring in plants or other greenery run the risk of being labeled an office pariah.

Today, this is no longer the case. In fact, “biophilic” design – a design that emphasizes the environmental impact of built space – is linked to positive employee morale and cost-saving benefits.

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Recent research unveils how natural, or “green”, spaces both enhance and restore concentration. The study posits this regained ability to concentrate on our innate receptiveness to nature. When enjoying nature, our mind is focussed in an unforced manner. Consequently, our ability to focus on a task at work comes involuntarily after being exposed to nature.

Perhaps the most overlooked and underutilized environmental asset is natural light.  In a recent study, almost half of employees (47%) report having little to no natural light in their office. Yet the majority of US employees prioritize having a workspace with natural light so much that they’d forego a fitness center, child-care services, or in-office cafeteria to have it, according to a 2018 study.

Science has long affirmed the negative impact of a lack of sunlight, leading to disorders such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Now, recent research has revealed several astonishing impacts daylit offices can have on multiple aspects of an employee’s wellbeing.  Employees say that access to natural light and views improves their overall happiness and well-being (78%), work satisfaction (73%), work performance (70%) and organizational commitment (54%).

Natural light also has purported effects on physical health. Employees in offices with significant natural light reported a 51% drop in the incidence of eyestrain, a 63% drop in the incidence of headaches, and a 56% reduction in drowsiness.

Daylight not only synthesizes overall employee happiness it’s also incredibly cost-effective. Offices with access to natural light require less fluorescent lighting, significantly cutting down on lighting costs. This is best exemplified in the case of the retail giant Overstock. In an attempt to enhance employee productivity Overstock installed 30,000 square feet of smart windows that adjust to optimize natural daylight so that workers felt more connected to nature. With an annual payroll of over $100 million, even a 2% increase in productivity translates to a savings of $2 million.

For companies that require alternative lighting, energy-efficient light bulbs offer an excellent ROI (return on investment). While they cost more than their traditional incandescent counterpart, their energy savings can save roughly $45 per bulb. In business, efficiency is at the core of saving money.

Sustainable products not only reduce costs but guarantee long-term growth. Immediate costs aside, sustainable investment is projected to be lucrative as businesses and consumers increasingly prioritize Corporate Social Responsibility.

In this way, green initiatives are a huge win for boosting a company’s credibility and PR image, while increasing profit.

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