Creating the Productive Workplace

By Derek Clements-Croome | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

A broad definition of comfort as an aid to meeting commitments on carbon dioxide reduction

Max Fordham

This book is about the productive workplace. I am an environmental engineer for buildings and so I am concerned about perceptions based on data from the eyes, the ears, and the thermal sensors of the body. Human beings evolved in the world in a form that was adapted to the wide range of environments occurring naturally. Light levels vary from 0 to 100,000 lux, sound levels from very quiet to enough to break the eardrums, and temperatures characterised by ranges from, let us say, −40°C to +50°C. We have not adapted to meet the extremes of environment, but we are adapted to survive in the most common middle ground. We have developed buildings to relieve the stress caused by extreme environmental conditions and to extend the range of locations in the world where we can survive. We imagine that by reducing the environmental stress we can increase our ability to be productive.

As an engineer, I am not professionally equipped to comment on the impact on people of their neighbours. However, as the son of a psychologist I am very much aware that my ability to function is dependent on my internal state of mind and the impact of my fellow workers. I am writing this before hearing the speakers at a conference, and in case it seems necessary I would like to remind you that a piece of research exists into the effects on productivity of altering the physical environment. Each alteration to the physical environment produces an immediate improvement in productivity. After a while the improvement tails off until the next alteration produces another spurt. Eventually, the environment is restored to the original status quo and the productivity increases. My psychological understanding of this phenomenon is that productivity of people is improved if they know they are loved, and special attention, such as special teaching or special changes to the environment, are signs of love which improve productivity.

We cannot form the future without understanding the status quo. I think the future is dominated by a conflict. On the one hand, economic growth requires that we invent new things to consume and that we consume more of those things which we have already invented. On the other hand, the success of any species of organism tends to produce an explosion in its consumption

-71-

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