Does Green Building Increase Productivity?
In recent times, cultural attitudes surrounding work life have changed. This is mostly due to the fact that most companies recognize that the line between a personal life and a work life is imaginary. We take our personal lives to work, and we take work home with us, even if it’s just work in our heads if not our briefcases or laptops. Employees who have a healthy work-life balance as encouraged by their employers means that they do a better job, and tend to stay in their jobs for a longer period of time.
And now, there has been a study that links the environment, green building, and increased productivity as well. Take a look at this Reuters press release from the University of San Diego, which has gathered together data which draws the correlation between green buildings and productivity, with sick days used as a measurement. From that release:
On the self-reported productivity measure, 12 percent of respondents said that
they strongly agree that employees were more productive in green buildings,
42.5 percent agreed that employees were more productive and 45 percent noted
no change in productivity. According to the authors’ calculations, the
increase in productivity translates into a net impact of $20.82 per employee,
based on an office space of 250 square feet per worker and using average
salary as an index.
The numbers in this particular study are not startlingly in favor of the idea. There are a lot of factors that remain difficult to pin down (i.e what constitutes a sick day, and does that mean that the employees were, not to put too fine a point on it, actually sick)?. But, it does seem to be a viable connection. It will be interesting to see if more studies on this shed greater light on this interesting correlation.
For me, it’s not really the numbers that make this an interesting question. It is the idea that our work environments have an impact on our approach to work, an idea that seems pretty compelling. Work spaces with more efficient air circulation seems like a definite productivity booster. After all, the healthier the air, the less people get sick. And that means fewer days away from work.
But more subtly, a building that uses more natural daylight, and less artificial light has tremendous psychological implications which contribute to happier employees, and the higher quality of work that results. Another series of studies that have been done to show the correlation between natural light and productivity. Environment, attitude, health, and employee retention seem to go hand in hand. On this front, it certainly makes sense to invest in green building design, and in green building materials too.
The great thing about green building is the benefits it seems have across all kinds of lines, from financial gains, to ecological ones, to the general health and welfare of people living and working in our communities. With green standards slowly making inroads into the mainstream, it may be that we’re moving toward a greater quality of life both at home and at work, which may never have come about with traditional design and construction.