by Karen Higginbottom
Employees who work in environments with natural elements reported a 13% higher level of well-being and are 8% more productive overall, according to a report of 3600 workers in eight countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), commissioned by modular flooring experts Interface.
The Human Spaces report led by organizational psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper found less than ideal working conditions for EMEA employees. Two fifths of EMEA office employees have no natural light in their working environment, over half don’t have access to any greenery in their working environment and 7% of EMEA workers have no window in their workspace. Spain reported the highest number of office employees with no windows (15%), and also had the most stressed workforce. In contrast, Germany and Denmark reported the least number of workers with no windows (2% and 3% respectively), and had the happiest workforce.
With nearly two-thirds (63%) of EMEA office workers now based in either a town or city center and spending on average 34 hours per week in the office, their interaction with nature is becoming increasingly limited, the report argued. Despite city-dominated lives, the research found workers have an inherent affinity to elements that reflect nature.
“The work environment has always been recognized as essential to employee well-being and performance but often purely as a ‘hygiene factor’,” remarked Cooper. “The report clearly illustrates the connection between the impact of working environments and productivity. It’s no coincidence that the most modern employers now take a new view, designing environments to help people thrive, collaborate and be creative. Being connected to nature and the outside world, biophilic design, to give it its real name, is a big part of that.”
The research findings have implications for design in the office space, according to Mandy Leeming, design and development manager (UK) at Interface. “Contact with nature and design elements which mimic natural materials has been shown to positively impact health, performance and concentration, and reduce anxiety and stress. When it comes to creating office spaces that achieve this, it’s about taking the nuances of nature that we subconsciously respond to, such as colors and textures, and interpreting them. Ultimately improving the well-being, productivity and creativity of the workforce is key to the success of market leading organizations.”
EMEA workers listed the following top five natural elements on their wish list for their ideal office space:
- Natural light
- Quiet working space
- A view of the sea
- Live indoor plants
- Bright colors
Originally published on Forbes, October 21, 2014.