Much has been written in recent years about the influence the quality indoor air has on the wellbeing of building occupants. Scientific studies and reports have evidenced that the air in some buildings is so polluted that levels have exceeded that of outside air in our large, heavily populated towns and cities.
Considering we probably spend up to 90% of our time inside buildings the impact on our health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated. We know that poor air quality has a negative impact on our ability to concentrate, when it is hot and stuffy it is very difficult to remain alert and focused on the tasks at hand. In the days before automated ventilation one can recollect school teachers opening windows with long poles to recover the attention levels of their class. This same loss of attention has a huge negative impact on the productivity in business today when air quality is poor.
The way our buildings are used and populated can also have a significant impact on the occupants well being and in turn their productivity. With each person breathing out between 10 to 75 l/h of carbon dioxide (CO2) and around 175 g/h of water vapour we have all felt the very rapid impact on air quality and concentration levels when being in a densely occupied meeting room where ventilation systems struggle to cope.
Noise levels, poor lighting, large variances in temperature and humidity all contribute to the general discomfort and in turn disrupt the wellbeing of building occupants. In addition, odours from the chemicals and gasses emitted from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) further disrupt.
Today however this is largely understood, indeed the impact of a poor environmental conditions contributing to at least one sick day per occupant and the associated knock on business productivity has prompted many companies to take note and make improvements to their building plant and building management systems whilst implementing intelligent monitoring and analytics such as Schneider Electrics Building Advisor offer to constantly monitor, alert and report on conditions and variances.
Whilst the impact on employee health and wellbeing is known, there is less appreciation of the impact on employee engagement and attitude to work that our environments have on staff. A Gensler survey reported that 90% of employees admitted that their attitude about work is adversely affected by the quality of their workplace environment.
All businesses are finding that attracting and retaining top talent is a real issue in the market today, regardless of industry sector. A colleague told of his daughter, having completed university with a good degree turned down her first four job offers due to the potential place of work not being to her liking – her decision criteria put workplace ahead of pay and benefits, a point confirmed in studies that suggest a staggering 79% of millennials put office conditions ahead of pay when considering a career move.
In the USA a major software business is re-developing its entire campus in order to appeal to the top university leavers of the future, they believe this is essential to secure their long-term future. It is certain that the younger generations are driving significant changes in work-life expectations with remote working, personalization of their space and simpler collaboration with task-based activities.
But to those responsible for the operation and running of a building these are just some of the issues faced, they also have the concern of the operating costs and servicing of the building.
Whilst we have discussed poor environmental conditions, even the very best class A office space can suffer from a different issue…poor space utilization. This may be a result of poor initial design, the change of use or simple over capacity. Occupiers traditionally struggle to effectively allocate space preferring to play safe and allot a workstation for every employee registered to a particular office. In reality this results in huge over capacity with anything from 15-50% of space underutilized. With London being one of the most expensive real estate regions in the world, third only to Hong Kong and New York one can see how costly underutilized space can be to a business.
Using the Schneider Electric Workplace Advisor those responsible for the business real estate can monitor in real time the actual usage of the building space and also the conditions that effect occupant comfort and wellbeing such as temperature, humidity, light levels, noise and smells. With the meaningful insight provided they can make informed decisions as far reaching as space divisions, layout even sub-letting spaces through to servicing changes and business operations.
Indeed, servicing is another are where cost savings may be achieved, simply by servicing only those areas occupied can deliver savings in operating costs in terms of cleaning and reduction in utility spend.
A rule of thumb suggests that for every £3 spent on utility costs, on average the business will spend £30 on its real estate. It will also spend £300 on its staffing costs so without question the greatest benefit to a business will come from its most significant asset, the staff. Utilizing latest technology to improve not only the environmental conditions but also the employee experience has to be a win win situation for any organization.
Imagine a time when no employee need waste hours looking for a desk, a meeting room, a piece of equipment or even a colleague. When the space optimization is reliable and constant, when maintenance and servicing activity is scheduled to be minimally disruptive and employee attraction and retention is on plan…. That time is now with EcoStruxure Workplace advisor from Schneider Electric.