Study connects employee productivity and well-being to office design

The Human Spaces report into The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, commissioned by global modular flooring experts, Interface and led by Organizational Psychologist, Professor Sir Cary Cooper, has today revealed that employees who work in environments with natural elements report a 15 per cent higher level of well-being, are 6 per cent more productive and 15 per cent more creative overall.

The Human Spaces global study of 7,600 office workers, in 16 countries, examined the impact of the physical office environment on employee well-being.

It concluded office design was so important to workers that a third (33 per cent) of global respondents stated it would unequivocally affect their decision whether or not to work somewhere. Incredibly, design was even more vital in India (67 per cent), Indonesia (62 per cent) and the Philippines (60 per cent) where two thirds of office workers were significantly influenced by workplace design.

Lack of natural light linked to increased levels of employee stress

Globally, nearly half (47 per cent) of office employees have no natural light in their working environment, and almost two thirds (58 per cent) have no live plants in their workspace. In Canada 32 per cent of workers reported having no windows.

This was closely followed by Australia and the US, with 28 per cent and 27 per cent of workers respectively reporting having no windows. Interestingly, these three countries all reported above average levels of stress. Conversely, workers in Indonesia and India reported some the highest levels of light and space at 93 per cent and 92 per cent respectively, and reported some of the lowest levels of unhappiness.

Commenting on the research findings, Professor Sir Cary Cooper, said: “The benefit of design inspired by nature, known as biophilic design, is accumulating evidence at a rapid pace. Looking at a snapshot of global working environments, up to one in five people have no natural elements within their workspace and alarmingly nearly 50 per cent of workers have no natural light. Yet a third of us say that workplace design would affect our decision to join a company. There’s a big disparity here and one that hints at workplace design only recently rising to prominence as a crucial factor.”

Solo work space linked to productivity

In terms of working space, nearly two fifths (39 per cent) of workers said they would feel most productive at their own desk in a solitary office. In terms of having a preference for solo space, Germany, China and Canada reported figures way above the global average, with 59 per cent, 52 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively, suggesting they prefer a solitary environment.

36 per cent of respondents would feel most productive at their own desk in an open plan office. Interestingly, individual data from certain countries was much higher: Spain (48 per cent); Australia (48 per cent); India (46 per cent); and Brazil (46 per cent) - indicating that collaborative working is much more important to them than the global average.

Global urbanisation

The data demonstrates that 85 per cent of global office workers surveyed are based in an urban environment* and the largest proportion of respondents spent between 40 – 49 hours per week in the office. Despite city dominated lives, the research found workers have an inherent affinity to elements that reflect nature.

Professor Sir Cary Cooper adds:As well as enabling organizations to make links between their physical spaces and the performance of their people, this study throws light on one of the defining challenges of modern life – our ability to cope with urbanization and loss of connection with green spaces.”

Commenting on what the research findings could mean for design in the office space, Chip DeGrace, Executive Creative Director at Interface, said: “What we can clearly identify is that there needs to be an ongoing evolution of the traditional office space, and it seems that as a global population, we are becoming ever more cognizant of our surroundings and how they impact our well-being, productivity and creativity at work.

“Biophilic design is the art of understanding how nature can influence us and how we can bring those sorts of influences into the spaces within which we work. We can see that working in environments with natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, leads to a higher level of well-being and productivity, which is an important consideration for any business in terms of responsibility to its employees. What’s more, the research indicated that by incorporating simple design elements which help to create a connection to nature, known as biophilic design, a business could potentially boost the productivity of its employees by 6 per cent - a significant benefit to the bottom line of any company.”

* ‘Urban environment’ includes city centre, city suburb, town and downtown.

About the Human Spaces Global Report

Collecting responses from 7,600 office workers across the Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Philippines, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UAE, UK, and US the research quantifies the benefits of biophilic design, specifically for well-being and productivity, and also provides a practical introduction to how to achieve those benefits. In doing so, the study adds to the existing evidence base and provides a blueprint for natural, high performing organisations. Follow @Human Spaces on Twitter.

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, CBE
Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health, Lancaster University, Founding Director, Robertson Cooper

Cary is recognised as one of the world’s leading experts on well‐being and stress at work and is the media’s first choice for comment on workplace issues. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, The Royal Society of Arts, The Royal Society of Medicine, The Royal Society of Health and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Editor‐in‐Chief of the Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Management and the author/editor of over 120 books.

Cary was awarded the Lifetime Practitioner Award from the British Psychology Society in recognition of his services to the profession. He acted as Lead Scientist in the ‘Foresight Review of Mental Capital and Well‐Being’ which influenced government policy regarding well‐being in all aspects of society. He is an active member of the Robertson Cooper team, focusing on strategy, external relations and PR activity. In June 2014 he was awarded a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list and was also voted the 1st Most Influential HR Thinker of 2014 by HR Magazine.

About Interface

Interface is the world’s largest global manufacturer of commercial carpet tiles. Its flooring products combine beauty and innovation with functionality and environmental credentials to help customers bring their design vision to life.

Interface was one of the first companies to publicly commit to sustainability, when it made a pledge in the mid-nineties to eliminate its impact on the environment by 2020. Known as Mission Zero, it influences every aspect of the business and inspires the company to continually push the boundaries in order to achieve its goal.

Interface is now more than half way to reaching Mission Zero and has been widely recognised for its achievements to date. Its products have also received several awards, specifically for design and innovation, the most recent being The Athenaeum Good Design Awards for Fotosfera and Urban Retreat.

About Interface Asia

Interface Singapore, established in 1989, operates as the regional headquarter of South East Asia including India, Korea and Japan. Interface reaches clients around Asia through local offices and authorised dealers in major cities such as Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Seoul and Tokyo. The region is serviced by a manufacturing plant in Thailand, recognised as the country’s first LEED accredited factory. Please visit and our social media channels for more information.


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