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We know an office setting must have the right conditions for workers’ health, comfort and productivity.

As a result, leading organisations around the world are constantly looking for ways to improve work environments, including providing workplace gyms, gardens, mothers’ rooms and daycare services.

The Harvard Business School conducted a survey on what employees want most from their workspaces. It found they want the basics first: better air quality, access to natural light, and the ability to personalise their workspace.

Half of the employees surveyed said poor air quality makes them sleepier during the day, and more than a third reported up to an hour in lost productivity as a result.

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The study established that air quality and light were the biggest influencers of employee performance, happiness and wellbeing, while fitness facilities and technology-based health tools were the most trivial.

“A high-quality workplace — one with natural light, good ventilation and comfortable temperatures — can reduce absenteeism up to four days a year,” the study reported.

It says organisations have the power to make improvements in these areas, and they need to, both for their workers and themselves. The survey offers three steps for this.

First, organisations need to stop spending money on pointless perks.

“They should focus more on changes in the workplace environment that impact all employees, like air quality and access to light, and less on those that only a minority of employees will take advantage of, like an on-site gym.”

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Second, employers should allow their workers to personalise their spaces where possible to suit their different preferences. This includes giving employees more freedom to choose, say, room temperature, lighting and even the music that they want to listen to.

Third, businesses need to introduce changes that focus not only on the physical health of employees, but also their emotional and environmental wellness.

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