By Katie Gloede, Hanley Wood Media
Energy efficiency is a known solution for reducing the electricity and heating costs of office space, but not as widely known is the relationship between efficient office spaces and employee productivity. A new report released by the World Green Building Council highlights that the typical business’ operating costs are around 90% salary and employee benefits. The typical annual absenteeism of US employees is three percent in the private sector and four percent in the public sector. According to the report, this translates to a loss of an average between $2,000 and $3,000 per employee each year. It is critical for businesses to acknowledge the link between healthy buildings and healthy people in order to keep staff productive and at work. Here are some simple solutions to energy efficiency and employee engagement that complement each other to create an overall healthy, cost-reduced office.
Aside from the many reasons to change office lighting to a more energy efficient option, lighting also impacts productivity. Studies show that the very rapid flickering of florescent and CFL light bulbs can cause stress and headaches as well as disrupt circadian rhythm. By spending more money up front on LEDs and warm lighting, lighting-related electricity costs will be reduced to a fraction of what they once were, bulbs will each last more than a decade and staff will be wide awake. In addition to light bulb replacement, finding ways to maximize natural light in an office will also keep employees happier and healthier.
Exercise increases work productivity. Asking office mates to take the stairs is one thing, but exercise that leads staff to take the stairs on their own is better. Friendly office competitions like a pedometer challenge encourage exercise at every opportunity to increase steps. Increased productivity and decreased elevator dependence, rolled into one. Other opportunities to help keep the office energetic like an after work running club or organized sports are ways to build a positive community environment among staff without using office space energy after hours.
Laptops use more than 50% less electricity than desktop computers. For a staff of a few hundred people, that can mean thousands of dollars saved in electricity costs per year. Not only will work computers use less electricity, but staff will be able to take their work wherever they go.
Of course, this doesn’t mean turn up the heat and increase energy use. Seeking ways to better insulate office spaces so that warmer a temperature is more easily maintained in winter, however, reduces energy costs and increases productivity. A study from Cornell found that employees made 44 percent more mistakes when office spaces were not at optimal temperatures, which is around 77 degrees Fahrenheit. When the time comes to do something about building insulation, it’s therefore beneficial to look into more sustainable and efficient options to also keep office operations running smoothly coupled with reduced heating and cooling costs. Other than replacing building insulation, adding other insulating factors such as bookshelves along walls or replacing windows with triple-panes options can help too.
Plants have a unique benefit of absorbing noise, dampening distracting and unwanted ambient noise. The presence of plants is known to make people happier in their office space. Finally, plants act as natural air filters, which can aid in keeping staff healthier by improving indoor air quality.
A daring move to facilitate better energy efficiency for both the office and employees is to keep most people out of the office entirely. Telecommuters, due to working in a comfortable environment and gaining back time typically spent getting to and from the office, work an average of five to seven more hours per week than non-telecommuters. As most people also do not turn off and unplug every energy source and appliance on their way out of the home to work each day, allowing employees to use their homes as their office also prevents additional offsite wasted energy. Although a shared office space in which employees can come to meet and collaborate has its benefits, it’s not necessary day-to-day.
This article was originally published in EcoBuilding Pulse September 2014.
Subscribe to MetalMag Essentials