Future Workplace Study: Natural Light and Air Quality Have the Biggest Impact on Workplace Wellness
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Future Workplace Study: Natural Light and Air Quality Have the Biggest Impact on Workplace Wellness

Majority of North American workers report inadequate natural light, while nearly half suffer from poor air quality

By Jeanne Meister

In a newly released study by Future Workplace entitled, “The Workplace Wellness Study,” over 67% of the 1,601 North American employees surveyed said they are more productive in workplaces that promote a healthy environment. One-third said they lose at least an hour of productivity each day due to office environments that don’t support their daily health. Download a summary of the study.

Air quality was cited as the most positive influence on wellness, with only one in four reporting that their office air quality was suitable to do their best work. Almost half of all employees (44%) said poor air quality makes them feel sleepy during the workday, and 28% reported that poor air quality creates symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes or throat irritation. 37% of employees said these symptoms improve when they leave the building at the end of the day.

Comfortable lighting was the second most highly-rated wellness factor. Yet 60% of workers reported that their companies don’t provide the adequate level of light required for optimal job performance. In addition, access to natural light and outdoor views all outranked an on-site gym and a pet friendly workplace policy as a preferred amenity in the workplace.

These findings support a larger trend of the growing importance of employee well-being. According to Gallup’s most recent iteration of the State of the American Workplace, more than half of employees report better overall well-being as “very important” to them. In the same survey, work-life balance and overall well-being were determined to be the second most important factor when choosing to work for an organization. When employees are fulfilled in all aspects of their well-being, this leads to increased employee engagement and increases individual performance.

Additional highlights from the report include:

Employees want personal control of their workspace environment. Nearly half of employees (48%) want the ability to personalize their dedicated workplace environment from a phone app. Almost half want to use an app to personalize the temperature of their workspace while more than a third would like to personalize their overhead lighting, desk lighting and levels of natural light with an app. Workers ranked personalization of the workspace environment more highly than unlimited vacation.

Workplace temperature is never good enough. One third of employees said it was continuously too hot or too cold in their offices. Only 1 in 3 respondents (33%) thought that their office temperature was set to do their best work.

Poor office acoustics create distractions. Office privacy is a distraction for almost half (47%) of all office employees. 78% of workers are unhappy with their office acoustics to do their best work.

Attention to employee wellness factors impacts recruiting and the employee experience. More than two-thirds of employees said a work environment that supports and enhances their health and well-being would encourage them to accept a job offer or to stay at their current job.

The research shows that employer health and wellness efforts fall short despite company investments in on-site gyms, ergonomics and healthy food choices. It’s the invisible factors such as air quality and access to natural light that are often overlooked yet provide a significant influence on workplace wellness, employee productivity and the overall quality of the employee experience.

The notion that the creation of the workplace environment is solely a real estate concern is an outdated concept. Today, employers recognize that the workplace environment is now part of the overall employee experience equation and a key lever to attract, engage, and retain top talent.


5 guidelines to take action on workplace wellness

1.   Adapt an employee-centric view of workplace wellness. Survey your workforce to understand the factors most important to them when it comes to workplace wellness.
2.   Build a holistic workplace wellness plan. Real Estate and HR need to work together to create a shared vision and strategy for workplace wellness.
3.   Re-examine your workplace wellness investments. Focus less on opt-in perks like an on-site-gyms and more on areas that affect every employee, like the workstation.
4.   Build personalization into your workplace wellness strategy. Employees expect the ability to personalize their workplace environment to best suit their physical and emotional needs at work.
5.   Monitor the connection between workplace wellness and employee satisfaction. Adapt a continuous improvement mindset as it relates to creating a workplace environment that mirrors an employee’s best consumer experience.

About Jeanne Meister

Jeanne Meister

Jeanne Meister is Founding Partner of Future Workplace, an HR Executive Network and Research firm. She is the best-selling author of four books, two books on Corporate Universities and two books on the future of work. Her most recent book is, The Future Workplace: 10 Rules For Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees. This book was awarded the Silver Axiom Best Business Book Award for Human Resources professionals in 2017 and most recently the receipt of the Bellwether award, by the Community College Futures Assembly.


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