[Urban Chronicles #WellBeingAtWork] #07 - Biodiversity, new tool for well-being at work

Published by Laetitia Morere

As we have seen throughout season 3 of Urban Chronicles™, the layout of spaces influences well-being at work and therefore the productivity of all. Employees feel this impact on a daily basis. This trend is not about to stop since, according to a study by the ESSEC Real Estate and Sustainable Development Chair in 2013, 40% of students, and therefore potential future employees, would be willing to refuse a job offer if the workspaces do not meet their expectations. Among all these developments, the integration of natural spaces and the promotion of biodiversity in workspaces are fundamental trends that respond to a new requirement of employees: a greener environment for optimal well-being.

 Promote biodiversity within the company

The whole of humanity has strong and inseparable links with the rest of life. In this sense, the 15th UN's Sustainable Development Goal(SDG) promotes the protection and promotion of biodiversity worldwide: "To preserve and restore terrestrial ecosystems, ensuring their sustainable use, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse the process of land degradation and halt the loss of biodiversity".

As part of their contribution to the SDGs, companies should therefore further rethink their links with nature. Thus, the good news for companies is that defending and promoting biodiversity can lead to a triple benefit for everyone: strengthening team cohesion to optimize well-being at work, redefining the corporate culture and giving an ethical dimension to employees and customers. Some companies have understood this and are implementing initiatives such as the installation of hives on the roof of their offices to strengthen links between employees and create a collective synergy around biodiversity. These approaches are perfectly in line with a CSR and sustainable development policy. But what is the real influence of biodiversity on employees' daily work?

Biodiversity at the service of improving well-being at work

As early as 1984, researcher Roger Ulrich demonstrated that, in a hospital, patients stay shorter when they can see nature through their windows. Other researchers have also studied these phenomena in the business world. For example, a study by the University of Washington highlighted the soothing nature of biodiversity at work. Within minutes, its effects are felt: lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduced muscle tension or even better concentration. Finally, researchers from the Oslo Faculty of Agronomy have quantified other phenomena. For example, the presence of plants in offices would reduce employee fatigue by 20%, increase productivity by 12% and above all improve well-being (+84%).

Similarly, biodiversity can contribute to a better quality of life in urban areas, particularly in the workplace. Thus, by selecting plants for their polluting properties in companies' green spaces, biodiversity can provide an air and rainwater purification service (by phyto-purification) around the site, which significantly improves the well-being of employees by improving the quality of life on the site. 

Thus, if the beneficial effects of biodiversity on employee mood and productivity seem proven, all that remains is to deploy infrastructures or initiatives in the field so that companies can reap the benefits.

Bring biodiversity into offices

Until now, companies have always tried to bring nature into their site when possible, with green spaces that are sometimes anecdotal in front of the reception desk or in inaccessible patios. However, some companies go further by integrating nature into offices, for example with the concept of a "Fertile Office" that allows plants, water features or even trees to be installed in offices in workspaces. But the notion that remains delicate for companies today is biodiversity. To this end, companies are increasingly developing innovative solutions using biodiversity, as the effects on productivity and well-being are so noticeable.

In this field, everyone has their own method for developing conviviality and well-being, in connection with nature. At Orange or at the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignation, it is bees that bring this biodiversity! At Caisse des Dépôts, a group of employees launched the "Bee Fun" project in 2010 and today, 200,000 bees are working to produce honey on the roof of the head office in the heart of Paris. This initiative has strengthened links between employees, while raising awareness of biodiversity issues in the workplace. From the first harvests, the "homemade" honey will be distributed to employees or given to charitable associations. Other insects can be unifying and contribute to the well-being of employees. By setting up insect hotels and organizing activities related to them (manufacturing, insect inventory, etc.), employees can feel invested with a mission to promote the development of biodiversity in urban areas.

Similarly, in addition to the installation of green plants that make the space pleasant and friendly, the installation of an organic vegetable garden or other types of crops can be a plus for the well-being and atmosphere within the teams. It is a good opportunity to create a bond between employees while relaxing in the workplace during a break.

The Works Council can also be an important catalyst for biodiversity beyond the office premises. Thus, by organizing environmental outings or stays, the Works Council can forge links by encouraging employees to experience the environment in groups through nature stays. For example, companies such as Arkema, Aéroports de Paris and Macif promote the discovery of biodiversity by organizing trips to the Somme Bay in Picardy (France) for the families of employees.

Thus, the potential for greening varies from company to company, even if the location of a company in a dense urban environment does not prevent the implementation of policies in favor of biodiversity. In addition to indoor spaces, roofs represent an important potential, almost always undervalued. A real solution for greening the densest cities, a green roof must above all be accessible to employees to provide added value in terms of well-being, which has a technical and economic impact on the project, in order to satisfy regulatory and safety issues.

Biodiversity therefore has an important role to play in commercial real estate directly for employees. Whether around buildings, on rooftops or even in the heart of the workplace itself, biodiversity contributes to the quality of life at work and gives companies a strong opportunity to mobilize in favor of this challenge of sustainability and attractiveness.

For more information on Green Soluce and our services, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Moderated by : Nadège Rigaudeau

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