Updates to sustainability features can have a major payoff in terms of employee experience and productivity.
Stale air. Outdated lighting that’s a little too light. Stuffy, tired workspaces that used to be inspiring. Every office needs a makeover now and then, and that can mean a perfect chance not only to refresh the office experience and renew employee engagement — but also to re-green. Yes, re-green: after all, sustainability features have come a long way, too. Overwhelming evidence tells us that green office space is not only a win for the planet and your bottom line (think: energy savings), but also offers important employee health and wellness benefits.
We spend about 90 percent of our days indoors. More than just a backdrop, the office setting and its environmental conditions are deeply connected with human health and, in turn, our ability and desire to do great work. Consider a compelling Harvard study that found that cognitive function is 61 percent higher in green buildings with clean indoor air.
With this in mind, when the need arose to renovate JLL’s headquarters in Chicago, we seized the opportunity to weave bolder sustainability initiatives into the design plan and day-to-day workflow. With our core goal to create an office that would move people, we decided to put green features to work to help our employees feel engaged, healthy and proud to be a part of JLL. It’s a scalable approach that can work for office renovations and renewals of all kinds and sizes.
A blueprint that puts people first? Make way for green
Drawing the line from green to productive is not just about physical construction and design, though that’s important. It’s also about how space and resources are used over time. Here are a few key areas for green improvement during any refresh or rehab — and beyond:
- Green lights, great payoff. Many offices have outdated lighting systems, often dating back to the long-ago days before computer screens took over our desks, and before the health and productivity benefits of daylight were well understood. You can definitely save energy by investing in LED lighting and smart controls that automatically dim the lights based on daylight levels and occupancy rather than preset timetables — 40 percent of it, in our case. But quality lighting design with increased daylight availability and proper light levels can also lead to enormous gains for worker productivity and satisfaction. Improved daylighting and other lighting improvements drives up productivity by +5.5 percent.
- Cleaner air makes for healthier employees. Poor office air quality has been shown to directly influence employee performance and absenteeism. And for the many of us who spend a sizable part of each day inside an office, fresher air has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? We opted to use no-VOC paints and sealants throughout our space, ensuring healthy, easy breathing. Bonus: improved thermal comfort and ventilation improves productivity by another +5 percent.
- Waste not, want not. Recycling doesn’t just happen because bins are available. It’s also about the culture — and the convenience. At JLL’s Aon Center headquarters, employee desks have had individual paper recycling bins for many years. we took the opportunity to add more recycling stations for bottles, cans, glass and plastic, so that every workstation has a convenient mini-recycling center just a short distance away.We took things a step further by rolling out composting bins in the office’s café areas. Now, employees can toss their leftovers and compostable silverware into a bin that is picked up daily by a composting company that turns it into fertile soil.
- Give ‘em something to talk about — and to take pride in: Low-flush and low-flow water fixtures cut our water use by 35 percent, saving 500,000 gallons annually. Sustainably harvested wood means we aren’t relying on lumber from vulnerable rainforests. Major, often visible tokens of corporate responsibility like these can be points of pride for today’s increasingly environmentally conscious workforce.
- Extend value through culture. Our headquarters building is on pace to achieve LEED certification, but that designation is only the beginning of our vision for our green initiatives. To be truly effective, sustainability measures must be woven into the fabric of an organization’s culture, whether that means setting up green teams to manage incentives for green and greener behavior, or maintaining an eco-friendly cleaning program.
Sustainability, refreshed: A win for small and large renovation projects alike
You don’t have to own the building for occupants to feel pride and engaged in their workplace. Nor is a massive renovation necessary to achieve some of these productivity benefits. No matter what your project’s size or scale, the key to success is to look not only at up-front costs, but also at the potential impact on the overall employee experience.
Impact on people is where the true value lies for any office renewal program — and re-greening will help move the needle with your workforce.