managemnet company strategy managemanet A Little Nature in the Office Boosts Morale and Productivity

A Little Nature in the Office Boosts Morale and Productivity

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Research on “micro-nature” – the inclusion of small, inexpensive natural elements in workplaces – has shown its positive impact on employee performance and well-being. Studies show environmental exposure in the workplace boosts productivity, helpfulness, and creativity, with no evidence of negative side effects. Recommendations include real and artificial nature, going beyond the office environment, using underutilized spaces, and encouraging exposure to nature outside of work hours. Environmental integration in workplaces improves overall business performance.

In Canary Wharf, the bustling district that serves as London’s base for many global businesses, the developers building a “green spine” which will soon break through skyscrapers, giving workers ready access to green spaces during their workdays. Across town at Google’s under-construction UK headquarters, a The rooftop park is 300 meters long with over 250 trees crowning the building, giving employees a natural escape from the offices and urban environment below. On the other side of the Atlantic, retailer LL Bean cut one of their warehouses in half and turned the space into a courtyard, so that everyone in their new home office have views of nature while working. These real-world examples of incorporating nature into commercial spaces are part of a growing trend to design spaces where employees can be immersed in nature during their workdays.

Increasing the nature of the work environment is certainly compatible with many companies’ sustainability initiatives. However, the motive also comes from the effect of nature on people – it is known that nature makes us better. Our emotions, our thinking, our connection with others, and our physical well-being everything is developed through and around nature.

Despite the connection between contact with nature and our well-being, the large investment in bringing nature into the workplace raises some thorny issues. First, in a time of economic hardship and cost cutting, is there a business case for including the environment around employees? Second, what about those workplaces where it is not possible or reasonable to include a green spine or a roof garden?

Answering these questions requires first understanding if nature has effects on metrics that are important to organizations (for example, employee satisfaction and performance) and if so if less intense doses of nature are significant enough to obtain these gains. Therefore, we began to test the effects (if any) of what we called micro-nature — small, inexpensive, seemingly innocuous ways to engage the workplace environment — how employees feel at work, and how they perform.

The Research

We have measured or manipulated environmental contact in the workplace in different ways in several studies, with workers in the US, Canada, China, New Zealand, and Indonesia. In the experiments, working adults were only shown images of workplaces with natural elements or similar images without nature. We then asked them to imagine they were working in these spaces and report how they would feel and perform. We also conduct more complex studies in real-world work settings. For example, we examined employees’ actual contact with nature during a week at work (eg, working near plants, natural sights, or the sound of running water), and then measured their feelings and objective work performance. Finally, in a field experiment in an accounting company, we went to the offices at night and placed potted plants on the desks of some employees and the same pots, filled only with office supplies, on other desks. Then we measured the attitudes and work performance of the two groups and compared them.

The results are largely consistent across these studies: Experiencing even a small dose of nature in the workplace improves employees’ mood in stimulating ways. higher task performance, more helpand enhanced creativity. These findings indicate that incorporating micro-nature into work settings can contribute to worker well-being and performance in a meaningful way.

We also look at whether there are differences between employees that shape how they are affected by the environment at work – factors such as how much individuals appreciate nature in general, and the extent to which they are drawn to new experiences. Our findings show that some people are more prone to experience the benefits of nature. However, we found no evidence that any employees were negatively affected by environmental exposure in the workplace; thus, micro-nature seems to hold more promise for employees with less frustration.

Keeping these findings in mind, we believe that nature should be accessible to as many employees as possible, not just those lucky enough to work under a green roof or next to a park. Companies should provide employees with micro-nature experiences. Below, we offer suggestions for the inclusion of micro-nature in the workplace, while also encouraging managers to give freedom and create their specific organization.

Exploiting Micro-Nature

The truth is the best, but artificial works too.

Giving employees opportunities to access the “real thing” is ideal when it comes to nature: indoor water features, windows with views of nature or open to let in natural sounds like birdsong. But just because it’s not true doesn’t mean that employees can’t benefit from the environment. Research shows that even depictions of nature, such as murals and artificial flowers, can give employees a natural boost.

Think beyond the office…

It goes without saying that it’s not just office workers who benefit from the environment. Employees in settings where the work environment feels more removed from nature – think warehouse or manufacturing – are more likely to notice a dash of the outside brought in and be positively affected by it because of its divergence from their status quo.

…and beyond at work.

Environmental benefits extend beyond employees’ work lives. Some of our research looks at the work-related benefits of spending time outside in the evening, after the work day. We know employees more productive the next day when they spent time outside the night before. Especially for hybrid and remote workers, the implications are clear: The benefits of the environmental tour at home continue at work. So even encouraging employees to take a walk at night can help them be more productive the next day.

Use unused or unused spaces.

By definition, micro-nature is small, and can be as simple as painting a wall with natural tones, adding flowers to the break room, or landscaping the area outside employees’ windows. We encourage managers to look for unused or underutilized areas around their workplace that can easily and cheaply be turned into natural features. For example, adding more landscaping to an overworked industrial parking lot can boost employee morale.

. . .

Overall, our findings show that the benefits of connecting employees to the work environment go beyond sustainability, and include positive effects on employees’ well-being and how they perform their jobs. As such, we view contact with nature as a valuable supplement to well-designed jobs that already include meaningful work, fair compensation, and respectful treatment. For companies that provide these things and are looking for more ways to improve the environment in which their employees work, micro-nature offers a lot of promise.

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