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Germans Increase Office Efficiency With "Cloud Ceiling" 223

Griller_GT writes "According to the top researchers of the Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organization (IAO) in Stuttgart, the human mind is set up to work at its best under the open sky, with changing illumination caused by clouds passing overhead. The unvarying glare of office lighting is sub-optimal, therefore, and in order to wring the last ounce of efficiency from German workers whose productivity has already been pushed to unprecedented heights they have decided to rectify this with a LED cloud ceiling."


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Germans Increase Office Efficiency With "Cloud Ceiling"

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  • I approve! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:19PM (#38597550) Journal

    A lot of what injures productivity is boredom. Having a non-constant light source could definitely keep things more interesting, even when you don't particularly notice it.

    Keep workers happy == keep workers productive.

    • I want one.
    • by Synerg1y ( 2169962 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:24PM (#38597682)


      when they see workers dozing off they should be able to initiate thunder and lightning. A bucket rain shower in an extreme case.

    • Seriously. I wish my company would keep me happy and productive.

    • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

      So what you're saying is that the real reason my office building's super won't fix the wild swings from hot to cold throughout the day is that it actually improves productivity (not counting the time I spend complaining about the temperature)?

    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )
      Agreed. I especially loved the parentheses at the end of the article:

      Unfortunately the battery-farm style worker efficiency overheads still cost â1,000 per square metre, but the Fraunhofer boffins expect this to come down (presumably because they have installed early sets in the plant fabricating the tiles)

      (By the way, that a with a hat before the 1000 is a Euro symbol in the article...)

  • I dunno. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:22PM (#38597604) Homepage Journal

    I may be at my best, coding in a Zeppelin, cruising silently above it all.

    I'd certainly like to try it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:22PM (#38597608)

    Can we PLEASE stop with this hyperbolic "productivity" nonsense? If people were SO productive, what are they producing? Why does it take 25 years to pay a house that can be built in 6 weeks? Why are we still working 40 hour weeks? The average work week went from 100 to 50 hours in the 19th century, with 19th century technology!

    What are we producing, why, and for who?

    • Stop your bellyaching and get back to work. You're obviously a slacker.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by dapyx ( 665882 )
      You are not pay only the actual cost of building the house, you must pay for the 200-feet yacht that the one-percenters get, too.
      • The 1% is anyone who makes more the $37,000 a year. Which is 10% of Americans.
        • When Americans are talking about the 1-percenters, they're talking about the top earners within the American economy. It sounds like you're talking about the world economy. It's a worthwhile discussion, but it's not what the GP was referring to.

          Further, even if the GP wasn't an American, it is likely that "one-percenters" refers to the top one percent in his or her own nation's economy. I don't think anyone making $38k per year in San Francisco considers themselves significantly more well off than a B
      • THIS

        This is where all the productivity improvements have gone, why we're not working 2-3 days a week or any of that other utopian stuff futurists thought was coming. There have been productivity improvements, HUGE ones, it's just that it's all collecting at the top where we don't see any of it.

        • by neyla ( 2455118 )

          True. After 1970, most of the productivity-gains in USA have *not* been passed on to the workers in the form of higher salaries and/or shorter work-years. Germany also hasn't done very well on that count for the last 10-15 years worker-compensation has been pretty much constant, while productivity has climbed substantially.

          You're a democracy though. It's *know* what systems tend to concentrate wealth at the top, and what systems are better (not perfect) at making society as a whole benefit.

          Have a look at Wi

    • by egomaniac ( 105476 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:37PM (#38597966) Homepage

      It's not fair to say that the house is built in six weeks. Yes, a house can be assembled from finished materials in six weeks, but you're not counting the effort to cut down the trees, transport them to a lumber mill, turn them into boards, mine the gypsum, turn it into drywall, mine the iron, convert the iron into steel wire, turn the steel wire into nails, refine oil into the raw plastic for pipes, mold the plastic into pipes and pipe fittings, transport all of these products all of the way from the factory to the building site, and on and on and on.

      You can only build a house in six weeks because an army of people is busily creating all of these finished materials for you, and if you add up all of the labor, it probably does come to somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty man-years of work to create a house.

      • Twenty man-years? No. If that was the case, the average person would have to spend 100% of their wages for 20 years in order to pay for the average house, before considering profit.

      • by danhaas ( 891773 )

        When you're talking about a 25 years payment, don't forget the interest rates. I would say one third to half of the total money goes to interest rates.

        The math isn't like this, you pay interest as you go, but considering the bulk values, I believe a house costs about 3 man-years to build, but you will pay that with 25% of what you earn for 12 years, and then another 12 years to pay interests.

        If you think that's excessive, try paying rent until you can buy your house upfront.

        • When you're talking about a 25 years payment, don't forget the interest rates.

          ... and they said the loanshark industry was dead. Not dead, just legalized, industrialized, and protected by the government. I would take the threat of lawsuits, ruined credit (therefore blocked from other credit accounts for years), and repossession of your house at any point, including at 24.9 years, as the same illegal "blackmail and extortion" that "criminals" used in the past.

        • Also, don't forget that the cost of a house has way more to do with the location than with the actual cost of building it. The same style house, depending on location can cost anywhere from $50,000 all the way up to $500,000 depending on where it is located.
      • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

        Until very recently (1980, perhaps?) people regularly only took out a 15 year mortgage on homes - you only bought what you could realistically afford. The concept of being in debt for a full third of your adult life (or more!) to pay off your home is a fairly recent phenomenon, and with 30 year mortgages, that number jumps to 50% in most cases. You're in even worse shape if you buy your home after you turn 20.

        For most of humanity's existence, homes were built by the community using locally sourced m

      • Google & youtube Fertighaus

        Most of it is machined.

        Why is it that factory manufacturing computer chip makes them cheaper but when the same mass manufacturing techniques are applied housing which contains much lower embodied energy, it doesn't?

        It's because pricing is based on market supply and demand, not on the the human labour or energy input of the materials. That's the marxist concept of economics.

      • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:22PM (#38600848) Homepage Journal

        > You can only build a house in six weeks because an army of people
        > is busily creating all of these finished materials for you, and if you
        > add up all of the labor, it probably does come to somewhere in the
        > neighborhood of twenty man-years of work to create a house.

        You're not really doing the math right. Yeah, it takes a lot of effort in one sense, but every step creates materials for thousands of houses. It's not like someone opened a gypsum mine to make enough drywall for one house. Aluminum gets mined, refined, formed into gutters, and painted... and then I buy it for a couple bucks per foot because they make (literally) tons of it.

        If a house costs $100,000, and everyone who has a hand in it makes $10/hr, and there are no other costs (materials, transportation, etc.), even that would be just 10,000 person-hours, or 5 people working a standard work year. (2,000 hours -- fifty weeks x 40 hours/week.)

      • by uncqual ( 836337 )
        Also, I think in areas where the average homeowner really requires 25 years to pay off a house, the land is often a significant proportion of the cost because of location, location, location.

        Many people who can easily pay off their house in far less than 25 or 30 years choose not to. Sometimes this is due to tax policy (such as in the US, most mortgage interest is tax deductible). Sometimes this is due to investment considerations (if a credit worthy borrower gets a fixed 30 mortgage at current interest
      • by kyrio ( 1091003 )
        You can build a house from wood. A single person can cut the trees down, prep them and build the house within a year. If you want the extras, you drop a few thousand on the materials you need and put them together. You can also purchase a prefab house with everything included (winter/wind proofed, as well) for under $30k, including shipping and potential taxes. The only reason you think otherwise, and try to justify paying hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars, for a total cost in labour and m
    • If people were SO productive, what are they producing?


      Why does it take 25 years to pay a house that can be built in 6 weeks?

      1. You pay less than a single worker's wage per month.
      2. More than one worker worked on your house at a time.
      3. You're also paying for materials that were produced over time you're not counting in that 6-week figure.

      Why are we still working 40 hour weeks? The average work week went from 100 to 50 hours in the 19th century, with 19th century technology!

      Actually, we're working 45-hour weeks--the 40-hour work week went out when they stopped paying us for lunch and changed the start time from 9:00 to 8:00. It will get better when resources aren't scarce anymore.

      What are we producing, why, and for who?

      Are you on acid?

    • by emilper ( 826945 )

      Why does it take 25 years to pay a house that can be built in 6 weeks? zoning => limited offer

      Why are we still working 40 hour weeks? Because we consume a lot more than people that worked 100 hour weeks 200 years ago.

      What are we producing, why, and for who? We're producing mainly to allow other products to be produced: 200 years ago the production chain had 3-4 links at most, now it's a lot longer and most work goes in producing inputs for the production of other inputs for the production of other inputs

    • by Chemisor ( 97276 )

      Can we PLEASE stop with this hyperbolic "productivity" nonsense? If people were SO productive, what are they producing?

      These are office workers. Their main product is memos and TPS reports, and judging by how the production of these increases hyperbolically every year, I must protest your use of the word "nonsense".

    • You need to catch up on Holmes on Homes so you can see why those 6 week houses take 25 years to pay off.

    • The house took only 6 weeks to build because someone paid for the land and hired architects to design the house before they even started. Then they organized 30 different people (including many specialists) to work on it while making sure they are getting all needed permits, following local building ordinances and safety laws. Feel free to replace all that work by doing it yourself and see how many years it will take to finish the house.
    • "Why does it take 25 years to pay a house that can be built in 6 weeks?"

      Because we've created a financial and political system dependent on infinite economic growth. Something has to keep going up in price... and people have to keep borrowing for it to function. Housing is pretty easy as you can just have zoning laws, boost immigration...
      Funny enough, I was reading an article that in Toronto about an old man who was selling his home he bought in the early 1900s. It cost about 1x the annual income.

      The 'ho

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        Funny enough, I was reading an article that in Toronto about an old man who was selling his home he bought in the early 1900s. It cost about 1x the annual income.

        It still does if you design the floor plan yourself and build a small house and limit yourself to the basics (carpet, not hardwood, let your builder build your cabinets instead of hiring out to a cabinet maker, use imitation counters instead of granite, no texture on the walls, etc. You can build a very nice, large house for three or four years sa

    • Most houses take a bit more than 6 weeks to build, and you have to factor in that its not just a single person working for that long - its quite a few. If you're comparing to your single income then to get a comparable exchange you need to add them all up.

      Now take into account that its a matter of finance and how much you actually want to put into the house at a time. If I count my total salary, I could afford to buy a house cash with 2 years salary.

      Thing is, I can't afford to dedicate 100% of my income t

    • A German house is typically not built in 6 weeks - make that 2 years or something. There is excavation, concrete and stones. No stick-frame buildings.

      But if you want to build some modest wealth for yourself, consider building your own house. It's an option if you have some skills and are willing to learn and work hard until you are done with it. Particularly in Germany though: the ground you build on is a scarce resource, hence it's expensive. I don't think there is a way around that.

      I agree on your gen

    • Productivity comes out of capital, which is what one needs to increase productivity. Capital is what allows purchasing/building more/better tools, which makes a process cheaper/faster/increases quality.

      So 100 men with shovels cannot be as productive as a man with an excavator, that's what productivity really means - 1 person doing work of 100 people because of all of the capital that went into the newer/better tools.

      Capital comes out of savings (as opposed to the wrong idea that it comes out of the printin

    • Supply and Demand of property in area + 6 week * 25 people labor... (Roughly 3 years of man hours) + Materials. The fact that you want to pay it off with half your salary. Loan taking 5% APR... Little pieces add up. Can housing be cheaper sure. But it what people are willing to pay for it. You can get a livable house for about twice the price of a good car. However human pride wants it to be nice and look nice and be in a clean safe area.

      We are working 40 hours a week is because we can. Too much more we
    • by tmosley ( 996283 )
      Your productivity is stolen by inflation. The computer revolution should have us all working 15 hour days for the amount of pay we currently receive (in terms of purchasing power). But the government has taken that purchasing power by spending freshly printed currency into the economy (ie taking goods out of the economy) via pay to government employees who don't make things that are for sale and direct use of goods (from bridges to nowhere to office supplies). The deflation boogyman that all the "mainstr
    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      Can we PLEASE stop with this hyperbolic "productivity" nonsense? If people were SO productive, what are they producing? Why does it take 25 years to pay a house that can be built in 6 weeks? Why are we still working 40 hour weeks? The average work week went from 100 to 50 hours in the 19th century, with 19th century technology!

      Look at the house example. Someone was saying that the average house has three man-years of effort (all done within 6 weeks, and representing far more than three man years of effort a century ago, productivity at work). So here, we have the ability to buy three man-years of effort and immediately use it. Sure, we can pay for this with a 25 year loan, but that's just another measure of productivity.

      Second, there are a lot of people who don't want to work less. 60 hours seems to work better for the workaho

    • You are often paying more for the land than you are for the house. You are also paying more than the cost of the house because you are borrowing a huge chunk of money for a long period of time. You are also not putting 100% of your productivity into paying off the house. It takes 25 years to pay for the house PLUS 25 years of kids, food, fun, retirement, medical expenses, car, fuel, and on and on. Also, think back 100 years and about what their standard of living was. Most families have washing machine
  • Consistent? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zandeez ( 1917156 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:25PM (#38597704) Homepage
    Is this proven to be consistent and will it continue to have this effect on the workers? I'd like to reference the Hawthorne Effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect [wikipedia.org] which basically states that any change to the working environment will increase productivity temporarily. So how long until it gets old and productivity slumps again?
    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      You just change the content. A huge LED display on the ceiling can be used to view anything.

      • I couldn't help but imagine some raw, hardcore porn filling the whole ceiling. Now THAT would be a sight, even if productivity dropped to negative!

    • I have psychological research showing that lcd screens showing live feed images of waterfalls and other such fake things don't work. Source [washington.edu].
  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:27PM (#38597750)

    His "researchers" also discovered that humans respond better when working at ambient temperatures and when exposed to the elements. They also like to be beaten with whips when they're insubordinate.

  • by Hermanas ( 1665329 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:28PM (#38597770)

    ... or even attempted to be proven, for that matter. From the article:

    The Fraunhofer Institute's press statement doesn't give any actual concrete figures on improved worker productivity

    According to the "study", if you can call it that with only ten volunteers, they merely chose that type of lighting with the other choices being "that, but less so", and "normal office lighting". No conclusive evidence of improved productivity (yet) as far as I can see, but it is pretty nifty - I'd like one of these installed in my office. Now if I could just convince my superiors of docking up that €1,000 per square meter...

  • Would be great to have other things flying over the fake sky, like birds, planes, pterodactyls, Superman, and UFOs, to make things even more interesting.
    • Don't worry, that's coming... when the "new" factor of the clouds wears off and productivity goes back to normal. Eventually, they'll just start showing random epilepsy inducing colors.

    • by Hartree ( 191324 )

      Remember that screen saver that had Opus the penguin shooting flying toasters with a shotgun?

      That'd definitely perk up my work environment.

  • by ravenscar ( 1662985 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:33PM (#38597900)

    What are the blue LEDs for?

    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      They do make it pretty blue when there aren't "clouds" over. Which is a bit strange since when we don't have real clouds, it gets brighter out (well maybe not in Seattle), while the blue LEDs make it look darker.
  • by million_monkeys ( 2480792 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:38PM (#38597982)
    I think it's more likely that someone tried to explain "the cloud" to some CEO and he completely misunderstood then ordered a bunch of these cloud panels made. After he realized his mistake, he had some people make up these productivity claims so he can avoid the embarrassment of admitting his mistake while simultaneously looking like an innovator.
  • I checked the Fraunhofer website [fraunhofer.de] but I don't see any links to vendors. I think this must still be in the research stage. Does anyone know of a similar product on the market? (Or how to build your own?)

  • Hawthorne Effect (Score:4, Interesting)

    by More Trouble ( 211162 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:39PM (#38598006)

    Maybe I'd like these lights just fine, myself, but doesn't it seem like a repeat of the Hawthorne Effect [wikipedia.org]?

  • by spiffmastercow ( 1001386 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:46PM (#38598146)
    For all that complexity, their office lacks an often-overlooked but very important productivity optimization: 4 walls, a ceiling, and a door for each employee (or at least those that need to concentrate from time to time).
  • Wow, I would really like this in the basement where they keep me. I have no windows and am so far underground, there is no cell signal from any provider yet, my car (parked in the parking lot) has a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.

    • I've got an ocean view out this window to my right here, the beach is just across the street actually.

      Think you'd like to trade jobs? >:)

  • if you could get a similar result much cheaper by using projectors near the ceiling, since detail is not important.
    Does look neat though, I'd like it. I'm building a room (studio) in my basement, I was actually considering - among other designs- of painting the ceiling like a blue sky with clouds. That'd be static though of course.
  • alternative (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:54PM (#38599374) Journal

    Or, you know, they could just install windows. (lowercase w)

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist ( 898384 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @02:10PM (#38599646)

    They are ignoring one fundamental principle of cubical life, anything new introduced into an office environment will increase productivity, as demonstrated on Better Off Ted.

    They could have achieved the same results by replacing one black chair with a red one for a much more cost efficient solution. When the office productivity dips again, swap which person get the red chair. They will think its a performance incentive and everyone will be working hard vying for the coveted red chair.

  • Skylight macht frei!

  • maybe the unstoppable roof leaks will come through these like a gentle rain! Or cause an electrical fire and burn the damn place to the ground... then you will actually be outside!
  • Isaac Asimov's city-planet of Trantor had billions of people living their whole lives inside, with artificial meteorological variations in the levels of illumination.

  • This explains why I always did my best thinking on the toilet at the Field Museum's award-winning bathrooms. http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/americas-best-toilet-named-20111110-1n8za.html [smh.com.au]
  • So why not build workspaces that allow more natural light? What about places that naturally have mostly consistant sunlight? Not every locale has moving cloudcover all the time. And isn't it possible that if you were given control of some fancy new lighting system that you would choose rapidly-changing light levels more because it's new and novel? I'm betting we won't see data about the actual percentage improvement in productivity over a period of months with this thing.

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner