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Can an office refit really improve productivity?

Couldyour office really make your workforce ill? It sounds extreme but new researchhas highlighted the impact of the office environment on employee health andwellbeing, which ultimately influences profitability.

"Ifyou're in a building with poor air quality, for example, it makes staff moresusceptible to things like colds and flu," says Peter Hilderson, Head ofEnergy & Sustainability Services (ESS) and Engineering & OperationsSolutions (EOS), JLL Asia Pacific.

"Noise,temperature, poor lighting, the ergonomics of your furniture and even the waythe space allows people to interact in meetings, it all affectsproductivity."

Theeffect of a poor environment on overall productivity was recently highlightedin a JLL co-sponsored report from the World Green Building Council.

Teamsof experts from the around the world were assembled to investigate a range ofoffice design factors, from indoor air quality, thermal comfort anddaylighting, to acoustics, interior layout, views and even biophilia – theextent to which humans are hardwired to need a connection with nature.

Itmay seem counter intuitive to overhaul office space to save money but Hildersonsays the two are inextricably linked.

Supportingsocial networks
TheWorld Green Building Council report highlights a recent pilot study for Bank ofAmerica showed the remarkable impact on productivity that occurred by activelycreating space that supports social interaction.  

Focusingon one of Bank of America's call centres, it provided space for employees tocollaborate over scheduled breaks. Cohesion was found to have increased by 18per cent at the end of the study, which led to a 6 per cent reduction inmeasured stress and a drastic reduction in employee turnover from 40 percent to12 per cent.

It'sestimated that this could save US$15 million per year on call centre costsacross the Bank of America.

RetrofitVs. built from scratch
Start-upsbenefit from the ability to be agile in creating new space. But establishedcorporate behemoths with longstanding space may be limited to retrofittingoptions

"Retrofittingis easy to do if you're looking at lighting and fixtures and fittings, that mayimprove the overall office feel, but a major overhaul requires much more,"

Hildersonsays that 95 per cent of JLL's sustainability clients require retrofit expertisewhile 5 per cent build new fitouts

"Youcan't just forget about these buildings," he adds.

Sowhat will the office of the future look like? If best practice is implementedacross the board, workers will be well-rested, free from illness with spacedesigned specifically to enhance their working day.

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