An office presentation being given in a lush open field
Photo credit: Office Now / CC BY

The Rise of the Eco-Office

Plain, functional offices are now firmly a thing of the past. Today’s modern office increasingly uses design in order to create an environment that employees find stimulating as well as enjoyable.

One of the major trends of 2014 has been the eco-office. A fashion that is likely to continue and become ever more prominent in 2015. Research conducted by the World Green Building Council found ‘overwhelming evidence’ that the design of an office significantly impacts the health and productivity of its employees. The report claimed that design features such as air quality, natural light and exposure to views of the outdoors all helped improve the health and performance of employees. This supported similar research published by the Journal of Organizational Behaviour, which found there is a correlation between eco-friendly work place practices and employee productivity. The study examined data from 5,220 French companies and found that employees who worked for a company implementing green practices were 16% more productive than their counterparts.

Adopting eco-friendly practices is not only good for employee health and the environment, but it also helps foster sustainable attitudes in employers themselves which can subsequently lead to long term money saving gains. For example, if employees at green companies have been found to be more productive, then their output is likely to be greater, more profitable and more positive than the competition at traditional firms. In addition, employees who feel their health and happiness is valued by their employers often show improved levels of job satisfaction, meaning that businesses benefit from higher staff retention levels and hence retain more experienced staff.

Offices don’t need to be situated in the great outdoors to be an employee friendly eco-office. The natural world can be re-created in the most densely populated cities through subtle and clever use of interior design features. Utilising organic colour palettes that make use of shades of green, brown and natural hues of blue can help to recreate the feeling of the natural world. Natural materials provide a warm and tactile surrounding and interior water features, planters or even artificial grass carpets can add to the effect. Alternatively, office design can draw on natural influences by selecting furniture that echoes the natural world. An example would be wooden furniture, organic shapes and soft furnishings made using natural or free trade materials. All of these elements can help induce a feeling of the outdoors.

By adopting eco-friendly principles, bottom line costs can be significantly reduced. Regardless of the size of your business, you can create an eco-friendly, cost effective office. A simple first step would be something as easy as conserving energy; using recycled materials; and most importantly, maximising natural light. In a study conducted in Britain and published in ‘The Responsible Workplace’ it was shown that a lack of windows were the number one cause of workers’ dissatisfaction with their workplace. Too much artificial light can cause strain on the eye and affect employees’ hormonal balance. In contrast, workplaces where natural light is in plentiful supply, employers reported happier workers, less absenteeism, and fewer illnesses.

The mindset for being ecologically sound has been gathering momentum for some time and 2014 saw the biggest mass movement in the working environment to reflect this modern attitude. At Spatial, we see no sign of this mindset slowing down as we head into 2015 and beyond.