Choosing the Right Office Space to Maximize Employee Productivity

When searching for the perfect office space for sale, consider this: You can measurably increase your employees’ productivity by selecting a space that allows clear access to nature and natural light. But before we discuss how that works, let’s first consider the cost-benefit of improving productivity.

How Much Money an Unproductive Employee Costs Your Business

As a business owner, you appreciate the value of a productive employee - one who not only shows up to work but comes equipped to tackle the day’s challenges. But do you know the cost of an employee who misses work or arrives unable to mentally engage?

According to Terrapin Bright Green, a sustainability consulting firm, employee absenteeism costs private-sector businesses an average of $2,074 per employee per year. And that’s just the loss sustained when an employee has to miss work. What about the employee who shows up but is unable to focus?

In such cases, Terrapin calculates that businesses in the private sector lose an average of $938 per employee per year. When these figures are combined, they show a total loss of $3,012 per employee per year. When you account for multiple employees, these losses add up pretty fast.

But the good news is that you don’t have to eat these costs year after year. Providing employees an office space with clear access to nature and natural light has been shown to boost productivity in the workplace.

How Access to Nature in the Office Space Boosts Employee Productivity

In a study cited by Terrapin Bright Green, employees whose offices were positioned with views of nature averaged less sick leave per year than those without an exterior view. Clearly, a step toward a more productive workplace is as simple as seating your employees next to windows that look out at the landscape.

What’s more, Terrapin concludes that “10% of employee absences can be attributed to architecture with no connection to nature.” Recovering even 10% of your losses caused by employee absence would make a big difference across your entire organization.

But would a view of nature help the employee who struggles to stay on task?

Actually, Terrapin argues that the quality of visual stimulation supplied by nature revives mental focus and does not cause distraction. In fact, the firm cites a study in which call center employees with views of nature completed their calls 6-7% faster than the employees with no outside views.

No matter which side of the productivity conundrum you examine, one surefire way to get results is to offer your employees views of the natural outdoors.

But it’s not just the views that will boost their productivity. According to Terrapin, daylight itself plays an important role in the health of employees - and all humans, for that matter. That’s because daylight keeps our hormones in proper balance so our bodies can function normally, with healthy sleep patterns and moods.

And it goes without saying that proper sleep and positive moods have everything to do with employee productivity. Which means that exposing your employees to more natural light is just as important as giving them access to views of nature.

How to Select an Office Space that Offers Access to Nature and Natural Light

To provide your employees with nature views and daylight, your office space really just needs windows and outdoor vegetation. But though it really is that simple, you’ll have to carefully consider their placement in order to achieve the highest productivity benefit.

Windows

An office space with plenty of strategically placed windows will allow you to implement daylighting, a term for relying primarily on natural light for workplace visibility and utilizing electric lighting only as needed. In addition to providing the health and productivity benefits already mentioned, daylighting cuts energy costs and saves you even more money.

According to Lightsearch.com’s Daylighting Guide for the Commercial Office, light entering from overhead is most desirable, as it tends to be less direct and cause less glare. To achieve this effect, the site suggests one of the following:

  • skylights with a light-diffusing feature
  • clerestories (windows that are situated above eye level)

Skylights and clerestories may be difficult to find in an existing office space. But don’t despair - you can still make daylighting work using only perimeter windows placed at a common level.

You’ll just need to make sure that the office space you select has numerous perimeter windows that bring in an abundance of natural light.

Then you’ll need to position your office interior so that you can best take advantage of the natural light available. Lightsearch.com’s guide will help you when you reach that point.

Outdoor Vegetation

The same perimeter windows that allow in natural light can also offer your employees a welcome view of the outdoors, but what will they see when they look out?

Ideally, your new office space would be built around a center courtyard, where you could plant a garden for employees to glimpse as they work.

Alternatively, if the workplace can’t surround the nature setting, the nature setting will have to surround the workplace. Bushes or flowers that line the exterior of the building will suffice, as long as employees can see them from their seats.

But if you’re looking for office space in a densely urban area, you aren’t likely to find a property with enough extra land to start a garden. In that case, you might consider planting a rooftop garden.

But a rooftop garden will only improve productivity if your employees can see it. So for this to work, your office space will need an accessible roof.

In its Guide to Commercial Green Roofs, IKO Industries explains that a flat roof with a pitch less than 2:12 is needed for a walkable rooftop garden. And to make sure that your roof can handle the weight of the garden and its admirers, you’ll need to consult a structural engineer.

Selecting an office space that allows your employees access to nature may take some effort, but the payoffs of employee productivity and well-being will make it worth it.

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