New Study: Air Quality And Natural Light Have The Biggest Impact On Employee Well-Being
When you think about creating a healthy work environment, you might think of cafeterias filled with bowls of fresh food or yoga in the conference room. But according to a new study on workplace wellness, the two most important factors are natural light and good air quality. These type of environmental factors are often overlooked in modern workplaces that emphasize rock walls, basketball courts, free gourmet meals, and sleep pods.
The Workplace Wellness Study conducted by Future Workplace, a New York-based research firm, and View, a technology company creating smart and connected buildings, surveyed 1,601 North American employees in April 2019.
The study data shows that the workplace environment is more important to employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity than most organizations realize. 67% of employees said they are more productive in workplaces that promote a healthy environment. One-third said they lose at least an hour of productivity each day due to office environments that don’t support their daily health.
More than a third of survey respondents reported that environmental discomfort and poor wellness factors had a significant negative impact on their work, across three aspects of workplace wellness:
Physical Wellness: includes healthy activity and behaviors in the workplace, such as access to movement and ergonomics.
Environmental Wellness: includes providing for physical comfort from air, light, temperature and acoustics in the workplace.
Emotional Wellness: consists of the factors that create a stress-free workplace environment including culture, a connection to the outdoors and more.
Air quality was cited as the most positive influence on wellness, with only one in four reporting that their office air quality was suitable to do their best work. Almost half of all employees (44%) said poor air quality makes them feel sleepy during the workday, and 28% reported that poor air quality creates symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes or throat irritation. 37% of employees said these symptoms improve when they leave the building at the end of the day.
Comfortable lighting was the second most highly-rated wellness factor. Yet 60% of workers reported that their companies don’t provide the adequate level of light required for optimal job performance. In addition, access to natural light, daylight and outdoor views all outranked an on-site gym and a pet-friendly workplace policy as an existing emotional wellness strategy in the workplace.
“The research shows that employer health and wellness efforts fall short despite company investments in on-site gyms, ergonomics and healthy food choices,” says Jeanne Meister, Founding Partner, Future Workplace. “It’s the invisible factors such as air quality and access to natural light that are often overlooked yet provide a significant influence on workplace wellness, employee productivity and the overall quality of the employee experience.”
Other Key Findings:
Employees want personal control of their workspace environment. Nearly half of employees (48%) want the ability to personalize their dedicated workplace environment from a phone app. Almost half want to use an app to personalize the temperature of their workspace while more than a third would like to personalize their overhead lighting, desk lighting and levels of natural light with an app. Workers ranked personalization of the workspace environment more highly than an unlimited vacation.
Workplace temperature is never good enough. One third of employees said it was continuously too hot or too cold in their offices. Only 1 in 3 respondents (33%) thought that their office temperature was set to do their best work.
Poor office acoustics create distractions. Office privacy is a distraction for almost half (47%) of all office employees. Only 1 in 5 workers (22%) feel their office acoustics are suitable to do their best work.
Attention to employee wellness factors impacts recruiting and the employee experience. More than two-thirds of employees said a work environment that supports and enhances their health and well-being would encourage them to accept a job offer or to stay at their current job.
“It’s clear that buildings that address essential human needs such as good quality air, access to natural light and comfortable temperatures create healthier and more productive employees,” said Dr. Brandon Tinianov, chair of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Advisory Council and vice president of industry strategy at View. “These findings are a wake-up call to every executive who wants to maximize the wellness and productivity of their workforce.”
As Dr. Tinianov mentioned, this study should serve as a wake-up call for many organizations who don’t realize that employees could care less about lavish wellness perks if they don’t have quality air to breathe or access to views of the outdoors. Many times worksite wellness professionals get so focused on encouraging employees to move more or choose more nutritious food, that they forget to take into account the environmental aspects of workspaces. This study serves as a powerful reminder that environmental factors such as air quality, lighting, water quality, temperature and acoustics can also have a huge impact. I would encourage all companies to do their own research and determine which environmental aspects affect their employees’ performance, happiness and overall well-being. You might just be surprised by what you find.
Article written by Alan Kohll and published on forbes.com