Green Workplaces: It’s Easy Being Green—and It’s Worth It

“Working Green” is catching on fast. But in this case, green isn’t about money.

As forward-thinking leaders realize creating a green workplace has a positive impact on their employees as well as their bottom line, sustainability and the green movement are spreading like wildfire.

Just what is a green workplace? It’s a workplace that incorporates design, construction, and operational practices that significantly reduce or eliminate its negative impact on the environment and its occupants. Even if you aren’t constructing a building from the ground up to incorporate all the green workplace elements, you can still do things to make your workplace greener.

Let the Sun Shine In

If your workplace has windows, open the blinds and let the sun shine in. If it doesn’t have windows, it’s doing a disservice to your employees. One study found that workers in windowless offices were less physically active than workers with windows. The study also found that the lack of sun exposure resulted in poorer sleep patterns.

These results can be attributed to what is called “biophilic design.” This concept recognizes that when people have a connection to nature, they become happier and more productive. Biophilic design can reduce stress, enhance creativity, stimulate creative thought, expedite healing, and improve overall wellbeing.

Just Add Plants

Not every company can redesign their workplace to incorporate sunshine. But every company should be able to modify the existing design, even if it’s only a tiny bit. One of the easiest ways to take your first steps toward going green and employing biophilic design is to simply add plants to the workspace. Whether they’re placed around the office or on the desks of employees, plants do wonders.

Researchers designed real-world experiments to discover the impact of plants on the workplace. The first experiment found that employees who had a direct view of at least two plants for three weeks experienced improvements in concentration when compared to those who were not exposed to plants.

The second experiment found that, over both the short term and the long term, job satisfaction went up when plants were added to the office. The third experiment focused on productivity. Unsurprisingly, those in the green experiment group completed tasks faster, without a rise in errors, and boosted their productivity 15 percent.

Eat with a Purpose

What is eaten in your workplace, where it’s eaten, and how waste is disposed of contributes to how green your workplace is. Eating healthy lunches is important because healthy foods lead to healthy employees. And, healthy employees are more engaged and more productive.

Where your employees eat also plays a role in going green. That’s because eating outside gives your employees access to sunlight and helps them enjoy the biophilic effect. Try to dedicate eating space outside of your building. Even if it’s just a park bench.

Recycling and responsibly disposing of food waste is another component of a green workplace. If you provide lunch as a benefit to your employees, be sure to select a provider that delivers lunches in recyclable containers.

The ROI of Going Green

The key to success is striving to deliver on the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit says U.S. Green Building Council manager of facilities, Melanie Mayo-Rogers. There’s no question that green workplaces help the planet. But what about people and profit?

As it turns out, green is measurable when it concerns your employees. Green workplaces reduce the average number of sick days per employee, reduce sick leave costs, improve productivity, and increase employee retention. And, decreased costs equates to increased profits for your company.

There’s a shade of green for every organization, regardless of size or budget. So, don’t worry if your workplace isn’t certified green—every little bit helps. Mother Earth and your employees appreciate every effort!

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