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. This type of environmental factors is 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 2020.
“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:
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.
“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.