Nature-Friendly Workspaces Benefit Employees and Business
Jason Richards
Jason Richards
VP, Energy & Construction Services
Sodexo North America

Sustainable work spaces are becoming more prominent.  Investing in sustainability benefits business, employees and the environment; it’s a win-win. By recognizing the value in sustainability, innovative companies can improve the health and well-being of their workforce—while supporting business goals.

From infrastructure upgrades to simple changes in behavior, there are easy ways for companies to improve energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint.  These small steps enhance the physical environment while improving health and well-being. In a study done by the California Energy Commission, environmental conditions were found to impact worker performance.  The study notes that workers with access to natural elements, such as indoor plants, were 6-12% more productive. Those with window seats reported the fewest negative health symptoms—whereas, fatigue was found to be most strongly associated with a lack of natural light.  Access to natural light finds benefit beyond the office.  Workers with windows get 173% more exposure to light during the day and sleep an extra 46 minutes a night.

Human Spaces Report offers key insights into how connection with nature can motivate and support people in the workplace.  In this study, workers in office environments with natural elements (such as greenery and sunlight) were found to have a 15% higher level of well-being—in addition to increased levels of productivity (+6%) and creativity (+15%).  

Research supporting biophilic design in the workplace indicates the contact with nature has a restorative effect that can help reduce day-to-day stress while increasing mindfulness of sustainability.  The tranquility and peacefulness of nature helps concentration.

Many businesses understand the positive impact of energy efficiency.  Common tactics include:

  • Wireless technology to control lighting and HVAC systems
  • Replacing florescent lighting with LED – a softer, lighting option that is 30% more efficient
  • Water cooled chiller systems for more effective cooling during the summer months
  • Adding living green wall for better indoor air quality and natural temperature control
  • Bench marking energy use and sharing goals to encourage engagement
  • Lowering cubicle heights and adding glass architectural walls to maximize daylight and views

Creating a sustainable, energy efficient workplace can help a business attract and retain talent. Being committed to sustainable design can give a company a competitive edge as can improve a workers’ perception of an organization.  It is time we make healthy offices not just a goal—but the norm: investing in energy efficiency means investing in your employees and the future of your organization. 

Which of these six tips do you like best, and what other tips could you add to our list? Let us know in the comments!


Jason Richards is Vice President, Energy & Construction Services. 


5 comments on “Nature-Friendly Workspaces Benefit Employees and Business

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    Cindy Salvatore says:

    My favority idea is lowering cubicle heights and adding glass architectural walls to maximize daylight and views. Great idea!

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    Your points on office configuration are pertinent. Here in Simsbury we have six offices and four conference rooms vacant with windows.. Several of the offices are used for storage…some others are empty 90% of the time due to a variety of reasons.Cubes are mostly six feet high..dark dens of old school office atmosophere

    Not sure what the reasons are behind the protocal for access to a window location… hierarchy I suppose…but I think it would make great sense to open this place up and bring some sunshine in…move some of the folks to a window office and lower the cube walls…

    For transparency sake…I already have a nice office with a window…just hate to see the great views go to waste.

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    Cheryl Taylor says:

    I agree with this article.
    I know I am personally revitalized by being able to simply take a 10 minute stroll outside during break period to reinvigorate my day.
    I do not have a window in my office. I recently purchased a “HappyLight” from Bed Bath & Beyond. It floods my office with vibrant natural light. Makes me more energetic! And while live plants are ideal, they require maintenance. But we do include several artificial plants in our office with the same affect. I also encourage recycling plastic bottles in the office for a global impact toward conservation.

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    – Create outdoor “huddle” spaces for more natural meeting opportunities.
    – Create outdoor walking paths with trees and water features to encourage walking 1:1s.
    – Design water features into area where people congregate. Avoid coloring the water and having it smell of excessive chlorine.
    – Create indoor meditation rooms with bamboo flooring, dimmable lighting and calming music
    ————————————as well as outdoor meditation gardens for reflection and/or meditation time.

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    Rachel Fineberg Sylvan says:

    Thanks for this great article. I have personally seen the benefits of increasing access to natural light and adding natural elements like the living walls and just plants overall. It makes sense that these features improve our sense of well-being AND productivity.


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