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Guest Blog: Natural Light and Other Ways to Make Your Office Green

The benefits of natural daylight on people can be seen when the sunshine comes out for the first time after a long, dreary winter. A noticeable enthusiasm contagiously spreads from person to person, as the luminous warmth replaces the bitter chill. Other green and natural elements also give people a sense of calm and tranquility. So, if you’re looking to increase productivity, performance and morale in your office, try adding some natural elements.

Benefits of Natural Light

In the workplace, natural light can be crucial to productivity. A study of student performance in indoor environments by the California Energy Commission reports that students perform 7 percent to 18 percent higher on standardized tests when subjected to higher amounts of natural light in their classrooms for one academic year. In addition, students performed 20 percent to 26 percent faster in day-lit classrooms.

A Northwestern study shows that workers without windows reported poorer scores than their counterparts on quality of life measurements as well as poorer outcomes on measurements of overall sleep quality and sleep disturbances.

For businesses to achieve better access to natural light and give employees a better look at the world outside, there are many cost effective resources. Window treatments, like bamboo and grass blinds, greatly enhance daylight exposure while cutting down on glare and energy costs. Blinds that are too heavy or dark block natural light and are therefore not conducive to your work environment.

Simulating Natural Light

Having access to natural sunlight during the day also helps people sleep at night and improves their overall health, which in turn leads to improved productivity. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reports that employees exposed to more natural light are more rested, sleeping 46 minutes longer on average than those without quality daylight. The study also claims that those in close proximity to natural light have a better brain and body synchronization.

Unfortunately, natural light isn’t possible in every office space. If your office has little availability to windows, paint the interior with light colors without any gloss effect. Glossy whites can cause a glare, which is counter-productive for workers. Also, obstructions, like large paintings or posters can absorb the light, which lessens its effectiveness. So, make sure bookshelves are perpendicular to the wall with windows to ensure a proper flow of light energy throughout your office.

Natural Plants Improve Productivity

A study from Exeter University shows that employees with access to a view of a plant are both happier and work better. The study also shows that once plants are placed within view, memory retention and basic test scores improve significantly. Therefore, you should avoid taking too much of a minimalist approach, as lean offices have been proven to have a negative effect on employees’s productivity. Even just a few plants scattered throughout the office can give the employees the perception of better air quality and higher workplace satisfaction.

With societal evolution, new challenges in the workplace arise. Employers who are willing to combine the needs of human satisfaction and staff productivity will find an overall increased quality of production and function among employees.

Reducing Your Building’s Energy

While natural lighting and plants can help to reduce the amount of energy you use to light and purify your office, there is a lot more to be done. The EPA states that the electricity used by idle electronics equals the annual output of 12 power plants. To help reduce the amount of energy wasted in your office, completely turn off your computer and other electronics when not in use. Also, plug electronics into power strips so they can all be unplugged at the end of the day.

If you want to make a larger impact, look at investing in ENERGY STAR products like computers, copiers, printers and other large appliances like your office refrigerator and heating and cooling system. Take it a step further and invest in green power generated from renewable resources like wind, sun, geothermal and biomass. Use the Green Power Locator to find out about green power options available in your area.

Going Green

The most obvious way to go green at your office is to reduce or eliminate the amount of paper you use. Instead of keeping hard copies of documents in a filing cabinet, save all documents in the cloud. Plus, this way you don’t have to worry about losing documents or having to transfer them during a move. If you have to use paper, though, be sure to print on both sides and use them as scratch paper when they are finished being used.

You also can go green in your office by buying earth-friendly products. Look for furniture manufactured from recycled materials or use friendlier materials like bamboo and cork. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs that use much less energy. And, as stated above, use as much natural light as possible.

Guest blog courtesy Social Monsters

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