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The 5 Most Inspiring Eco-friendly Green Offices

We may be, for the most part, doing our bit to reduce our carbon footprint at home, the commercial sector, whose buildings account for an average of 80% of the carbon emissions in metropolitan areas, has a way to go. But there are a handful of truly inspiring architects around the world who are leading the way and giving us a glimpse into the future of sustainability in the workplace. Their buildings are big, beautiful and green. Here’s our lowdown of the most impressive of the lot.

1. The Edge, Amsterdam

Designed by PLP Architecture and developed by OVG Real Estate, The Edge, located in Amsterdam, was rated as ‘outstanding’ and awarded 98.36%, the highest ever score recorded by Building Research Establishment, the global sustainable buildings assessor.

The stunning building is energy neutral, run entirely on solar panels at three levels, covering the roof and facade. These generate enough energy to power all the equipment in the building as well as the thermal energy storage that heats the offices. Rainwater is gathered to water the greenery and flush the loos. Beautiful to look at and carbon neutral.

2. One Angel Square, Manchester

Part of a great 10 year plan to to redevelop 20 acres of Manchester’s north area, One Angel Square received an ‘outstanding’ score from BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) for its green credentials. The 16 storey building contains a central atrium and 325,000 square ft of open plan office space and uses locally sources materials and low energy lighting, systems and IT equipment.

One_Angel_Square_during_night,_December_2012

3. 1 Embankment Place, London

Originally built in the early 90’s, 1 Embankment Place achieved an ‘outstanding’ rating by BREEAM in 2013, after the old building was drastically redesigned.

New technologies include a cooling, heat and power system that’s fuelled by recycled waste vegetable oil that is collected and refined locally, as well as eco-friendly carpet tiles and electrical points. The urinals are waterless and the toilets are low water, to reduce water use.

Whilst the building was being redone, 96% of waste was diverted from landfill. It’s expected that the work will have paid for itself within 4 years, with energy bill savings around £250K a year.

4. Powerhouse Kjørbo, Oslo

These two stunning structures were reformed around existing buildings, using recycled materials. The eco-friendly charred wood facade needs no maintenance and the renovation as a whole has reduced the amount of energy needed to fuel the building by an incredible 90%.

5. The NuOffice, Munich

The plan when this impressive building was being designed, was to both reduce energy consumption and use renewable energy resources. It’s certainly worked. Aside from looking amazing, the yearly primary energy consumption of about 30 kilowatt-hours per square metre compares with the average new building’s consumption of between 100 – 150.

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Why Your Office Is More Than A Place of Work – It’s A Culture

“I love my job!” What is it that makes people say that? Apart from the actual work itself, and the salary, what is it that makes a workplace somewhere people want to work? Sure, location and benefits come into play, but an often overlooked but crucial factor is workplace culture. Companies with a healthy workplace culture attract the best talent that are a good cultural fit, meaning they’ll fit in well and stick around.

So what exactly is work culture and why is it so important? Put simply, work culture is the values, beliefs and behaviour of a company. It’s the way things are done. The culture of a company filters down from the very top. A workplace culture can be secretive and mistrusting, or open and collaborative, it can be rigid, or flexible. It can be nurturing, or unsupportive.

In the same way that workplace culture can positively influence workers and make them love their jobs, a toxic work culture has the opposite effect. No matter how much a person enjoys the actual work they do day to day, if the work culture is toxic, they’ll either stick around demotivated and unhappy or, more likely, look to move on.

Creating the right culture at work can reap rewards. Some of the main reasons for employees leaving their job are that their co-workers are difficult, that they feel that they’re not trusted by senior management, that they’re blamed for mistakes and that work is not flexible. The benefits of a positive work culture can’t be underestimated.

A bad work culture means disgruntled workers and high employee turnover, whereas a healthy one means happy workers who get along and work together towards a common goal. I know what I’d prefer! Culture is an important factor for both employers, to make sure they get it right, and equally for employees, to decide if the culture suits them.

office culture

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5 Little Touches Every Attractive Workplace Includes

In an ideal world, every business would provide their workers with state of the art offices or workplaces designed for optimum comfort, wellbeing and performance. But for smaller businesses without a multinational budget, that’s just not possible. So what can smaller businesses without the big bucks do to help create a great working environment? Quite a lot it turns out. Because in business, as in life, more often than not it’s the little things that make all the difference. Here’s our top five touches that make for happy workplace bunnies. They’re either free or cost next to nothing to put in place. A little really can go a long way.

1. A Decent Cup of Coffee

How many cups of coffee will you drink in your working life? Well, let’s say you drink 3 cups of coffee a day, work 5 days a week for 46 weeks a year, for 40 years. You’ll plough your way through an incredible 27,600 cups of coffee at work. That’s a lot of bad coffee to put up with. A decent cup of coffee, or tea, or juice, is a perfect example of how a little touch can go a long way. It might seem small and relatively insignificant, but it all adds up.

2. Camaraderie

Have you ever wondered why people stay, happily enough, in less than luxurious working environments and never complain? It’s not just because of the decent coffee. All the top of the range office equipment and high end technology in the world means nothing if the people working in that space don’t get along. Sure, workers are employed to work, but a little fun now and then goes a long way in boosting morale, in turn increasing job satisfaction. Get the balance right between work and fun and reap the rewards with a motivated team who look forward to coming to work.

3. Personalised Spaces

Since we all spend around a third of our waking lives at work, it makes sense that we should be able to personalise the space a bit, to make us feel good. A photo of loved ones, or team days out, a comfy chair, an office plant or a few mood enhancing flowers, cost pennies but go a long way towards keeping the team comfortable and happy.

4. Good Housekeeping

It should go without saying that workplaces should be kept clean, but often smaller businesses neglect this and cleaning is an afterthought. It’s worth investing in commercial cleaning company to keep the environment spotless, so workers are comfortable and content.

5. A Place for Peace & Quiet

We all need a bit of peace and quiet sometimes, away from distraction and noise. Sometimes you just need to sit for a while, to concentrate or gather your thoughts. Attractive workplaces are those where a space is allocated for this. To sit quietly, with a decent cup of coffee, of course!

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Do Office Plants Really Boost Staff Happiness and Productivity?

What makes employees happy? What makes workers more productive? Two golden questions asked by management the world over. After all, a happy, productive workforce equals more bottom line profit and everyone’s a winner. Research into workplace wellbeing has been pretty extensive over the years, with ideas coming and going. In more recent years, the general consensus has been ‘A tidy desk is a tidy mind’ leading to employers adopting ‘clean desk’ policies, forbidding employees to personalise their work spaces. No photos, no plants, no mess at the end of each working day. The idea is that if the work environment is clean and free from clutter, it naturally follows that workers are happier and more able to focus. The problem is, the idea seems to have been taken too far, with workplaces becoming clinical and unwelcoming.

Recent research from Exeter University refutes the whole minimalist theory, saying that stark offices, lacking personal touches, are toxic environments to put humans into and that a few houseplants dotted around can make a massive difference to happiness and productivity.

excessive office plants

How does that work? Well it makes sense when you think about it. We spend a great chunk of our lives in our work environment, as we do our homes. It’s the little touches that transform a house into a home. Why should the workplace be any different? Of course there are other people to consider, so Justin Bieber posters plastered all over the walls or knick knacks covering every available space are not to be encouraged, but what does help workers feel happy, relaxed and productive, is a little bit of greenery. What was also interesting from the study, is that a few photos would equally have a positive effect on performance and wellbeing.

So if you want de-stressed, hard working employees who take less sick days, get yourself down to the garden centre, buy a few plants, decorate your offices with them and watch as work rate increases, by up to 15%.

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Open Plan Work Spaces vs Cubicles – So Which is Best for Productivity?

Mention the topic of open plan work spaces vs cubicles to anyone working in or managing an office and chances are you’ll have a fairly lively debate on your hands. Some love the privacy and lack of distraction you get working in a cubicle, whereas others find the solitude and lack of human interaction pretty soul destroying. So the question is, which makes us work harder, open plan or cubicle working?

First of all, we have to work out what it is that makes us more productive at work. Lots of factors come into play, but one thing’s for sure; a happy worker is a more productive one. Recent research conducted by the University of Warwick, which included four different experiments on more than 700 people, showed that if we’re happy, we work harder. 12% harder to be precise. So if a happy worker is a more productive one, then which makes workers happier, open plan offices or cubicles?

Open plan offices were originally designed in the 1950s and earlier this year, Facebook unveiled their new open plan office in Menlo Park, California, which Mark Zuckerberg described as “the largest open floor plan in the world”

The idea of the open plan office was that collaboration and productivity increases as communication and ideas flow more freely between workers. Before open plan offices came along, the workforce was often stationed in fairly oppressive, tightly packed, regimented lines, like this happy lot from the 40s. So, has it worked? Are we happier and more productive as a result of the open plan office?

1940s office

It depends. In 2011, Matthew Davis found that open plan offices were detrimental to workers’ satisfaction, attention spans and productivity. Seems like the more we’re interrupted, the more stressed out we get and the less we get done. We’ve all been there, the loud crisp cruncher, the incessant moaner. So distracting! So cubicles must be the answer, right?

Cubicle working definitely has its advantages. The main benefits are privacy and lack of distracting annoyances. In a recent survey by Ipsos and the Workspace Futures Team of Steelcase, a whopping 95% of workers said that privacy in the workplace was important to them and 85% said they were dissatisfied with their work environment. In a cubicle, you can focus a lot better, without getting drawn into other stuff. A big disadvantage, though, is that you can feel hemmed in and isolated, which can impact on your happiness. It looks like the overall popularity of the open plan office is on the wane with workers, with the exception of those in creative industries and cubicle working, although far from perfect, might have the edge if your work requires you to concentrate deeply.

Neither are perfect though. We’ve had half a century of open plan and cubicle working and we’re stressed out, distracted and craving privacy more than ever. So what’s the latest thinking in office design? Seems like work pods could be the way forward. Private, quiet, great to look at and you can even have a little snooze if you want to! What’s not to love?

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