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Can your office environment impact productivity?

25 March 2020

Annual productivity gains are a goal for every enterprise today. Improvements in performance can have an impact right across the business, creating more cash flow flexibility and enabling an organisation to set more ambitious objectives. Among the many factors that influence productivity in the workplace, office environment is increasingly recognised as having an essential role to play. Air quality, in particular, is now viewed as a key factor in whether a workforce is able to perform to its true potential.

Air quality and employee performance

According to a recent study there is a strong link between air quality and the way that employees perform in productivity terms. Research carried out by academics, industry bodies and the Government agency responsible for developing innovation in the UK economy found that office spaces where there are lower levels of CO2 enable staff to increase speed of work by up to 60%. This is the first study that has focused on examining the impact of environmental factors, such as air quality, on the bottom line of businesses. Given that the UK already falls behind other neighbouring countries, such as France and Germany, when it comes to productivity, insights such as this could provide a foundation for change that helps to improve outcomes.

The impact of employee wellbeing on productivity

One of the main themes of this research has been to show that the environment in which we work affects us physically, mentally and socially. A poor environment that detracts from employee wellbeing is much less likely to support positive performance than an office space that has been designed to nurture a healthier experience. Monitoring CO2 levels in office is not something that has been carried out on a widespread basis. However, as a result of the recent study, many business leaders are now beginning to understand how much of an effect this could have on key performance factors, such as productivity, and looking to integrate new systems to improve air quality in the office. Monitoring CO2 and making changes to bring levels down could be one simple way for any business to improve its competitive advantage.

The blame game

In the past, issues with productivity have often been blamed on other factors, such as problems with IT, a poorly designed office space or bad management. While these elements still have a key role to place in ensuring that employees are engaged and energised in the space in which they work this new research adds another key factor into the mix. The buildings in the study where CO2 levels were at their lowest saw employee test results improved by up to 12%. In buildings where more CO2 was present in the atmosphere employees completed tests in 13.3 minutes – but in those environments where air quality was better staff required just 8.2 minutes.

As the results of this research show, for any truly competitive business today ensuring that air quality is high and CO2 levels minimised is going to be as important to productivity as robust IT infrastructure and a well designed space.