My mom was once employed by a church. The office areas of this church were outfitted in a distinctly corporate fashion. Dull grey cubicle walls, grey desks, black chairs, the usual “not quite grey but not quite tan” filing cabinets, and a dull grey carpet. People were mostly walled off in their cubicles.
Oh, and the only windows were in the individual outer offices. It was not a very happy environment to work in for 8-9 hours a day, and that doesn’t even take into account the impact of poor management and difficult coworkers. Naturally, this doesn’t apply to every business, but it remains the standard in a significant percentage of corporate environments.
The reasons behind the standard office setting are understandable. More employees can be housed in a given space, which is important for companies paying square footage leases in office buildings. Using long fluorescent lights enables strong illumination of the entire office, without having dark corners.
Now, think for a moment about the outside world. No, not downtown New York City, Chicago or Boston, but about what those cities looked like before those cities were built. Or, maybe, look at the framed picture of a generic landscape hung on the office wall. What do you see?
Color. Upon color. Upon color. Upon color. Sunlight. Maybe some animals or insects. This is what we’re meant to see around us, not dull greys and manufactured lighting. But what does this have to do with the workplace?
Easy. People these days work in artificial environments. Not a one of the elements of a typical office environment is what the human body is meant to experience. As recently as a century ago, many people still worked outdoors. Large-scale lighting wasn’t too common, so there were a boatload of windows (in places like assembly plants). And, of course, people were active in their work. They weren’t sitting down in chairs all day.
Today’s environments stress employees greatly. A lack of natural stimuli and an excess of stressors (paying the bills, seeking pay raises and promotions, keeping a job) combines to form a stressed-out employee whose productivity, health, and value to the company all suffer.
And that is what the work environment has to do with your company. Research shows that when exposure to natural stimuli is greater, people have better cognition. Their attention is less forced and more balanced. As a result, they’re happier, healthier, and more productive. Happier employees stick around longer, which reduces turnover rates. Healthier employees require fewer medical claims, which reduces company costs. More productive employees reduce “presenteeism”, which increases revenue.
Getting an idea of what bringing nature into work can do for your company and its wellness program initiatives?
Good. Next week, I’ll get into the ways in which your workplace can create a more natural environment as part of its corporate wellness program. Until then, take a gander at some of the ideas Mark Sisson came up with at Mark’s Daily Apple.