Productivity and the indoor environment

This is an exciting week for all of us here at CPP. While our North American wind tunnels are staying put, most of our Fort Collins-based engineering, administrative, and business support staff are moving into new offices. Starting Monday, 15th September, our corporate headquarters will be located at 2400 Midpoint Drive, Suite 190, Fort Collins, CO 80524.

Designing CPP’s new offices forced us to stop and think about just how critical the indoor environment is to employee productivity. Too often, offices are simply treated as containers for people, but even modest improvements in productivity and efficiency can translate into considerable savings.

Here are a few of the most commonly cited environmental factors that can affect workplace efficiency.


To many workers, light implicitly means overhead fluorescents, but the benefits of sunlight go well beyond one’s day-to-day wellbeing. Natural light can lower utility costs and boost employee performance. A 2001 study conducted by the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that workers with access to natural light demonstrated a 15 percent increase in attention span compared to those who had no windows.


Good ventilation strategies keep employees comfortable and productive. The Center for the Built Environment at the University of California at Berkeley has found evidence that inadequate airflow translates into lower performance. And researchers from the Helsinki University of Technology and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have demonstrated positive numerical correlations between ventilation rates and employee efficiency.


A major challenge to employee productivity is noise. Numerous studies have demonstrated that noise causes a reduction in cognitive performance. Even ordinary background noise from telephones, printers, and fax machines has been shown to heighten levels of the same stress hormones that stimulate our fight-or-flight responses. Perhaps that’s why libraries are so conducive to studying!


A productive workplace is one in which occupants have some level of control over their environment. According to a 2005 study, employees who are allowed to move furniture, adjust lighting, and change the temperature are more satisfied in their jobs than those who have less control. A functional space is an adaptive space.

While no single environmental factor is likely to make or break a business, understanding the role that each plays empowers business owners to design functional workspaces that contribute to happy, healthy employees.