When the Chamber of Commons was being rebuilt after the Blitz, Winston Churchill insisted that the original rectangular layout was kept (so the political parties could continue to challenge each other from opposing benches) rather than moving to the more inclusive semi-circular layout that other legislative assembles and adopted. In Churchill’s words, ‘We shape our buildings and, afterwards, our buildings shape us.’
His wise words have taken on a new meaning in the 21st century. A report by the World Green Building Council (‘Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices – the next chapter for green building’) suggests there is ‘overwhelming’ evidence that “…the design of an office has a material impact on the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants”.
Indoor air quality
The benefits of good indoor air quality are well established. Studies have shown that productivity improvements of between 8% and 11% can be achieved by improving the air quality in a room, and that having ‘openable’ windows in the workplace can increase productivity by 18%.
Research suggests that thermal comfort has a significant impact on workplace satisfaction. Staff performance can drop by 4% if the indoor environment is too cold – and by 6% if it’s too hot.
Daylight & lighting
As we’ve already said in our Back to basics article, natural daylight aids good sleep. A study cited in the World Green Building Council report suggests that working near good daylight during the day can add 45 minutes to night sleeping.
Other studies have shown that people are more productive if they are near a window, and that improving the lighting design in an office can raise productivity by 23%. More recently, though, experts have suggested that the productivity gains that have been seen are due to the view offered through the window, and that views ‘with a connection to nature’ are the most beneficial.
Whatever the possible productivity gains, the perceived value (to an individual) of being near a window could be very high: in a global survey on meetings habits conducted by the Hilton International group, 70% of UK respondents said that they considered windows ‘important’.
The word ‘biophilia’ may sound as if it has been lifted from the pages of Science Fiction, but it simply refers to our instinctive ‘bond’ with nature. The importance of biophilic design (integrating nature and natural elements, materials and forms into a building’s architecture and interior) is creeping up the agenda for urban planners, property developers, office designers and fit-out companies.
We all know from our home lives that it’s almost impossible to concentrate when you’re surrounded by noise. Work-based research proves it. A study conducted in 1998 found that there was a 66% drop in performance (on a memory task) when the workers were exposed to background noise. In a follow-up study in 2005, 99% of those surveyed said their concentration was impaired by general office noise including background chat and ringing phones.
Some of the noise issues can be linked to poorly thought-through office layouts, such as locating work stations along heavily trafficked corridors, or by lift doors or coffee machines.
A good fit-out company will be able to advise you on the best configuration of workspace, meeting space, breakout space and social space for your new or existing office.