Productivity has traditionally been regarded and measured as work output per man-hour. Today, in non-industrial organizations, productivity is being regarded as a broad range of positive outcomes, with job satisfaction being a leading outcome. Job satisfaction has become increasingly important, particularly for office workers, due to the lengthy period of time required for new employees to reach maximum efficiency, and turnover costs that can erode profitability and competitiveness.
Numerous research studies have shown that workplace design is a major contributing factor to how satisfied and motivated workers are, how well they perform individually, and how they perform as a group. A majority of office workers, however, are not satisfied with the quality of their workplace design, including leading environmental quality factors such as lighting, thermal comfort and acoustics. While people demonstrate highly variable preferences for temperature and light levels, for example, thermal and lighting systems are designed as fixed output systems that will be comfortable for a majority, but not all occupants.
Since people costs outweigh building costs by a ratio of 13:1, organizations can generate desirable financial outcomes through investments in productivity, in particular by addressing workplace design. Studies indicate that workers relate comfort to workplace design, and that increasing job satisfaction can correlate to productivity increases. As a result, organizations today are highly aware of the need for integrating emerging technologies with innovative design to maximize satisfaction and performance among space occupants.
To bridge the gap between a fixed workplace design and highly variable need for lighting and temperature among individuals in a group and for each individual based on changing tasks, time of day and other factors, designers have increasingly adopted personal control solutions. Regarding lighting, this generally entails establishing a dimming system with each occupant in the space being able to interface with the lighting system (through PC, handheld remote, etc.) to control his or her local light levels.
A number of studies demonstrate that personal dimming can result in higher productivity-specifically in the metrics of vigilance, motivation and satisfaction-and also in energy savings. This dual impact can result in an improved bottom line and more satisfied employees and tenants. These advantages are resulting in a significant new trend towards adoption of personal dimming solutions among designers and building owners.
Researchers have determined that providing office workers with control over lighting and ventilation in their workstations increases environmental satisfaction while reducing the amount of energy consumed. Importantly, researchers observed “Large differences in chosen light levels and ventilation flow rates between individuals.” Overall, however, study participants with control over light levels used 10% less energy for lighting than participants who did not have control over their lighting levels. In addition, study participants who had control over the ventilation in their cubicles also reduced air flow rates compared to others without control.
These findings are important because “Research has demonstrated a positive correlation between environmental satisfaction and job satisfaction . . . job satisfaction is a major predictor of behaviors of consequence to organizational performance such as organizational citizenship (promoting the organization internally and externally) . . . employee turnover . . . , and customer satisfaction.” Add to that the overall energy savings and you have an appealing mix for clients to consider.