Building Productivity with Wood in the Workplace

There are major, proven health benefits to interacting with nature, but it turns out that simply being exposed to natural materials holds powerful productivity advantages.

Wood in the workplace

Edward Wilson, a Harvard University entomologist, called it the “biophilia hypothesis,” a fancy term to describe people’s innate attraction to nature. Research continues to support Wilson’s theory in increasingly surprising ways. For example, a recent survey from Forest & Wood Products Australia described how satisfaction with their work life and the physical workplace increased steadily with the increased proportion of natural wooden surfaces (think desks, shelving, chairs, etc.) to which workers were exposed.

According to the survey, people in workplaces with less than 20 percent natural looking wooden surfaces reported being significantly less satisfied with their working life and physical workplace compared to those with a higher percentage of wood surfaces. In particular, workers with higher percentages of wood surfaces reported significant decreases in stress, simply through this connection to natural surfaces.

You can’t chalk this one up to a simple love of nature — there’s science to back up this informal stress survey. A study measured the stress response of more than 100 workers in wood and non-wood offices before, during, and again after a stressful mental task. The researchers found that sympathetic nervous system activation — often called the fight or flight response — was significantly lower in the wood room. Measurable stress was less than half for workers in the wood office compared to the non-wood office.

That’s a huge finding for corporate employers. After all, workers who are less stressed are using fewer sick days and are performing more productively in the office. A survey of American workers by Wrike, a collaborative work management platform, found that 29 percent of workers reported that stress leads to productivity problems in the office.

While research specific to the human connection to wood remains young, the evidence is certainly encouraging. And high-stress workplaces with high turnover aren’t the only ones that can benefit by adding more natural wood surfaces (although that is certainly a good place to start). Truly any workplace can benefit by adding wood finishes, even in small touches.

As the Forest & Wood Products Australia survey noted, positive responses came from survey respondents could see a wooden desk from where they sat (45 percent), were near wooden tables (39 percent) or had a view of wood shelving or cupboards (39 percent).

We offer a variety of species of hardwood plywood and other wood types to help your workplace become less stressful. Do you react positively to seeing wood in the workplace? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter!

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