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Health, wellbeing and productivity in offices: it's time to go green 15 November 2016

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There is overwhelming evidence that demonstrates that the design of an office impacts on the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants.

Having a healthy and happy workforce is a crucial component of a productive, successful business in the long term. All businesses should want to ensure that their staff are happy at work regardless, but they'll also find that this can have a distinct effect on business costs.

Statistics from the ACAS Promoting Positive Mental Health at Work study revealed that poor mental health in the office costs UK employers £30 billion a year, through factors like lost production, recruitment and absence.

However, did you know that simple changes, like bringing plants into your office, could make a distinct difference?

A study conducted by researchers at Exeter University, Cardiff University, the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, and the University of Queensland, Australia shows that productivity is boosted by almost a fifth when office workers have plants around their desks. People also claim to be more satisfied at work and say that are more focused when their office contains greenery, the research showed.

Craig Knight, the psychologist who led the study, told The Times: "The improvement in productivity from placing plants near to staff was remarkable. Plants not only boosted intellectual performance but also improved job satisfaction and sense of well-being."

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Additional research which took place at the University of Michigan found that a person's memory retention can improve by as much as 20 per cent if they are regularly surrounded by plants.

According to Marlon Nieuwenhuis from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, this research contradicts the most recent trend of sleek and minimalist office space. However, he says it clearly "identifies a pathway to a more enjoyable, more comfortable and a more profitable form of office-based working".

It's incredible the difference something as small as a plant can make. In fact, the Leesman Index, which is the largest set of data based on workspace effectiveness in the world, shows that there's actually a number of factors that affect employee happiness. These include things such as the office temperature, noise levels, amount of natural light and space to read or think.

It's not just the inside of the office that can make a difference though. The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) says that the buildings themselves could also have an effect on the health and wellbeing of staff.

The WorldGBC undertook a study into green buildings, which found that good design, construction, behaviour and location are all also conducive to a healthy, productive workforce.

At the time the report was published, the now late managing director of Black Architecture Paul Hinkin commented: "Academics and architects specialising in sustainable design are advocating a radical change to the building design process, placing the needs of building occupiers at the epicentre of the process and then shaping schemes that create healthy environments which promote wellbeing and enhance performance.

"This radical philosophy challenges the design of every element of a project, ensuring that each decision will have a positive impact on users."

Employers are now reconsidering orientation, form and layout so that they have an office that is user-centred and sustainable, claims the WorldGBC report. Office construction, on the other hand, is now beginning to include new technologies, innovation and smart controls.

57 Spring Gardens, Manchester
57 Spring Gardens reception, Manchester