How Sustainability in the Workplace Impacts the Bottom Line

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When you think of sustainability in the workplace, what comes to mind?

Instituting a ban on straws to save the environment? Installing expensive solar panels to advertise “going green?” Placing recycling bins with complicated instructions on removing parts, checking plastic type, and washing trash before recycling? These fears can lead a manager to dread the idea of implementing strategies for corporate sustainability. What if there were more innovative measures that not only improved productivity, but actually saved money on the bottom line? Good news: modern measures taken toward sustainability in the workplace can accomplish these goals without headaches. 

An Evolving CRE Lifecycle

Let’s begin with the “inconvenient truth” of our current structural circumstance. Buildings require a refresh about every forty years. So, unless your office space was just constructed, you’re going to face renovations at some point. In addition, it’s estimated that by 2050, an additional 30 million buildings will be necessary to facilitate the increasing rate of urbanization. With this boom in construction demands, both management and designers are looking at more efficient building measures. As designs move into a more environmentally-friendly era, buildings will begin to rely less on LEED and BREEAM systems and lean more on building-integrated health management policies such as WELL, Fitwel, SHINE, and others.

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Future buildings will feature more simple, modular-style designs that can quickly and easily be swapped around to fit any tenant’s needs.  Increased sustainability in the workplace means smart offices with app-based control systems will become mainstream. For example, want to change the air conditioning of your cubicle? Simply slide the gauge on your phone and the valves above your head will adjust accordingly. In addition, innovative measures such as integrating algae into building structures has accomplished everything from generating enough heat to warm a building’s floors and water to powering lamps (that remove up to 200x more CO2 from the atmosphere than trees). Sustainability in the workplace means future buildings will decrease company reliance on public utilities.

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Standardizing Sustainability in the Workplace

WELL Building Standard is the new future of building standards. When discussing sustainability in the workplace, most managers will be familiar with LEED standards – which works on a rating system of determining a building’s impact on the environment. WELL modernizes this rating system to focus on how a building impacts human health and wellbeing. WELL addresses seven categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Unlike LEED status, which is a one-time acquisition, WELL requires re-certification every three years.

While becoming WELL-certified can sound like a big undertaking, breaking the requirements down into practical application results in simple, but effective, implementations. When looking at the ASID headquarters, managers and designers can find some easy examples to replicate in their offices.

  • For example, install carbon filters into water and air purification systems to tackle the first two areas (air & water).
  • Provide hydration stations instead of sugary vending machines and make fruits and vegetables available at your snack bar (nourishment).
  • Implement circadian light to mimic the 24-hr natural body cycle and ensure every desk has access to a window or skylight (light).
  • Offer an on-site gym (or membership to a nearby one) and standing desks (fitness).
  • Design your workspace’s acoustics such that collaboration sound levels don’t disturb others trying to work independently (comfort).
  • Dedicate a wellness room for taking a mental break and recharge (mind).

ASID Headquarters, DC

In 2015, the American Society of Interior Designers began integrating the WELL Standard into their new Washington, D.C. headquarters. Based on their experience, they recommend bringing in experts early. Relying on the real-estate advisor’s guidance in how to implement the thorough WELL requirements, managers can anticipate the initial investment (that would result in long-term savings) and schedule everything to be ready – preparing for a WELL assessor to inspect the site.

The Impetus Behind Sustainability in the Workplace

With more than half of the planet’s population residing in urban areas, the EPA states that Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. This can have a strong, negative effect on workers’ health since studies show a correlation between nature and good health.

To combat this, more and more designers are turning to biophilia – the principle that humans hold an innate desire to connect and bond with nature. More and more companies are beginning to embrace this connection as nature engages the mind in “involuntary fascination” – leading to restored attention and focus, according to environment psychologist Stephen Kaplan.

As a result, buildings in Dubai have incorporated natural elements indoors. The UAE reports higher than average employee engagement at around seven percentage points above the global average.

Harvard Air Quality Research

In 2015, The Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a study demonstrating how air quality, CO2, and chemicals affect cognitive function. On average, strategically-designed green offices were 61% higher in employees’ cognitive function.

It’s easy to see why more and more managers are investing in corporate sustainability, given its proven results in employee performance and bottom line savings. Our experts at Office Furniture Warehouse are here to help you build an office that’s future-proof, cost-effective and eco-friendly. Tell us about your project and find out how easy it is to go green while minding your green!