At LCMB, we have been consistently working on optimising offices and workplaces for health, well-being, and performance for the last few years. This has been driven by our original research which examined the impact of the indoor environment quality on our performance and productivity.
The Workplace Opportunity
Our research has found that indoor environmental conditions dramatically impacted people’s cognitive capability and performance. For example, when CO2 levels were lowered, people completed workplace tests dramatically faster and scored better:
- Test scores improved by up to 12 per cent.
- Where test speed was measured, people worked 60 per cent faster in lower CO2 concentrations, taking a mean of 8.2 minutes to complete a test in low CO2 concentrations, compared with 13.3 minutes in modest CO2
Over the last decade, this research is echoed in the work of the World Green Building Council, Harvard University and British Council for offices. What improves our productivity has also been shown to positively impact our health and well-being.
Together, the research suggests that UK businesses and organisations are sitting on untapped potential of 2–3.5 per cent productivity gains by optimising their workplace environments. Recent research has demonstrated that by applying these principles to real world situations could uncover a potential £40–£70 billion of additional annual output for the UK economy. This research also shows that the value of these productivity gains to occupants is roughly equivalent to between 30 per cent of the annual office rent in central London and 75 per cent outside London.
So, prior to the arrival of COVID-19, it was clear that careful management of the office environment could have dramatic impacts on the health, well-being, and performance of organisations and their people.
This is even more the case in the current pandemic situation when we take into consideration the different and variable remote working environments our teams are working in and our need to ensure our workplaces are COVID-19 secure when teams return to the office environment.
Improving remote working health, well-being, and performance
Most remote workers are familiar with the advice of creating a suitable workplace separate to family life which enables staff to close the door on work and switch off. However, the workplace research suggests that we should go further.
To improve the health, well-being and performance of our people, we need to ensure they are operating in an indoor environment which is as good, and ideally better than the office environment. This will mean ensuring that, at least, temperature and CO2 are controlled. Temperature normally takes care of itself as people are aware of what is comfortable and optimum for them. In some ways the home environment is better than the office environment as there are not multiple people with different comfort zones.
However, we are not particularly sensitive to the CO2 levels within our environment. Remote working spaces need to be well-ventilated to avoid sub-optimal cognitive performance due to high CO2 levels. At home this can easily be achieved by ensuring windows are opened to avoid CO2 levels getting above 1,400 ppm, which can be monitored on a modern air quality sensor costing approximately £100; an investment which could deliver a 12 per cent cognitive performance improvement. Ideally ventilation solutions should be designed to maintain workplace CO2 levels below 800-1,100 ppm, depending on application, circumstance and cost.
We believe that in our new COVID world, we need to give as much thought to ensuring our teams home working environments are as well-controlled as our workplaces to protect and nurture our people and organisations.
Additionally, we have created our Safe Return to the Workplace guidance document which you can download from our website. This offers easy practical guidance to make your workplaces more COVID secure.
Later this year we will also be publishing our Healthy and Productive Remote Working guidance so please get in contact to reserve your copy below. If you would like any further help and support to improve the performance of your workplace and remote working models, contact us today.