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The Productivity Payoff of the Sustainable Workplace

The Productivity Payoff of the Sustainable Workplace

Healthcare is on everyone’s mind. Regardless of whether employers or employees pay for healthcare, there’s no question that healthy employees are more productive than unhealthy ones. Wellness programs and fitness incentives are popular HR approaches to enhancing employee health. But there’s another way to boost your team’s health, and it’s a win for everyone: It’s the sustainable workplace.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and SUNY Upstate Medical studied the occupants of ten green-certified buildings across the U.S., testing their cognitive function and their “sick building” symptoms. They also tested quality of sleep, a key component of productivity. Compared to occupants of non-certified buildings, these workers had 26% higher cognitive functions, 30% fewer sick-building symptoms, and 6% better quality of sleep. A healthier building made for healthier workers.

At the federal level, the GSA has designed its own program, Fitwel, for assessing the health-optimizing factors of the buildings it manages for federal employees. Always a supporter of maximum productivity, the GSA created the health and wellness rating system in partnership with the CDC. Fitwel was piloted in 89 public buildings beginning in 2014 and continues to collect metrics for design recommendations.

Beyond employee health, there’s another HR consideration embedded in the sustainable workplace: Recruitment. New graduates are more environmentally aware than their predecessors. As the demand for highly-trained employees continues to increase, a well-defined sustainability program, including a green-certified workplace, becomes a valuable recruitment tool.

The big question for finance and facilities managers is how to manage the cost of going green. It is impractical to throw out office furnishings, abandon leases, or sell buildings simply to achieve green certification. But there are incremental steps that can be taken. For example, you could add bicycle racks in a convenient corner, to encourage your employees to bike to work. It’s good for their health, and it’s good for the environment. Or if built-ins are part of an upcoming build-out, consider modular cabinetry which can be easily removed, reconfigured and reinstalled. You’ll avoid scrapping expensive custom millwork when your storage needs change. Shopping for new furnishings or workstations? There are well-designed green certified workstations readily available; an example is MAS-certified Swiftspace.

Each small change gets you closer to green. And each small change boosts your business’s productivity, producing a different, but equally important, kind of green.


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