Written by Warren Fitzpatrick
Let’s sketch the scenario: In an average UK office with floor space of 18 000 square feet*, with 200 employees earning an average annual full-time salary of £35 000** per annum, company X’s annual staff costs are £7 million. Through simple low and no-cost workplace interventions, company X could increase annual productivity by 2 to 3.5% which over ten years compound to an additional output of between £1,4 to £2,45 million.
In 2018 the British Council for Offices (BCO) published the results of Whole Life Performance Plus (WLP+) a three-year study, led by Oxford Brookes University and LCMB Building Performance, with funding support from Innovate UK and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). They studied people’s performance in real-world environments and found that office environments can dramatically undermine productivity and performance. Their research found that indoor environmental conditions dramatically impacted people’s cognitive capability and performance.
For example, when CO2 levels were lowered, people completed the tests dramatically faster and scored better:
Test scores improved by up to 12%.
Where test speed was measured in one building, people worked 60% faster in lower CO2 concentrations, taking a mean of 8.2 minutes to complete a test in low CO2 concentrations, compared with 13.3 minutes in modest CO2.
The implications of their ground-breaking study are dramatic: In the UK alone productivity improvements gained by optimizing workplaces, equates to £40 – £70 billion of additional annual output for the UK economy.
Simplifying the steps to improved productivity, that any organization can follow
To examine the issue of workplace productivity, a joint workshop titled The Business Case for Productive, High Performing and Healthier Workplaces was conducted with BCO and a cross-section of over forty workplace developers, occupiers, and designers from a wide spread of industries.
The workshop began with presentations from Professor Derek Clements-Croome, on the impact of health and wellbeing on productivity, Dr. Ed Suttie of BRE on their living lab Biophilic Office project and John O’Brien on the economic case for action. Together they debated the industry awareness of the issue, the barrier to actions and what tools are required to help organizations turn the research into action and impact.
They had a focused and passionate debate and as a group concluded that:
· There is a limited, but growing, awareness of the detailed research proving the impact of workplace design and operation on workplace creativity, productivity, performance, and wellbeing.
· Productivity is a broad term that varies dependent on the industry and department looking to make improvements, and it is universally something which can improve based on the UK’s performance compared to their peers in Europe and the USA.
· Human resources (HR) and real estate functions tend to be siloed in most organizations, preventing a joined-up approach to capturing this source of wellbeing and performance advantage.
· Case studies that prove the benefits, toolkits, and technology that simplify the process of optimizing the workplace will accelerate industry uptake.
The latest BCO guide to specification suggests office users should focus on the impact workplace design and operation has on creativity, productivity, performance, and wellbeing.
However, getting ahead of workplace improvement is a nearly impossible task if you don’t have the data to help you make strategic decisions.
Using smart sensors, Ergosense can help you measure your office environment and occupancy behavior. Our Bluetooth enabled systems can measure a variety of environmental elements, such as occupancy, light, air quality, humidity, and noise.
Our cloud-based software converts this data into powerful information, enabling companies to make informed decisions on optimizing their work environment and asset utilization.
*Average calculated from Statista
**According to a 2019 survey by Findcourses.co.uk