Green Offices Improve Productivity

Keeping staff healthy and happy improves productivity and boosts businesses’ bottom line, according to the World Green Building Council.

Improving air quality, increasing natural light, and introducing greenery at an office facility can have a dramatic impact on a company’s bottom line by improving employee productivity and reducing absenteeism, staff turnover, and medical costs, according to a new report from the World Green Building Council. The report is the latest to be released under WorldGBC’s Better Places for People campaign.

(Credit: World Green Building Council)

The report reveals that employers, building owners, designers and developers throughout the world are discovering that it pays to invest in greener offices that keep their occupants healthy and happy. Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices highlights the global momentum behind healthy and green office design and operation, and showcases over 15 buildings that are leading the way.

“While our earlier work presented the overwhelming evidence between office design and improved health and wellbeing of workers, this report breaks new ground by demonstrating tangible action businesses are taking to improve their workspaces,” said Terri Wills, CEO of the WorldGBC. “The results are clear – putting both health and wellbeing, and the environment, at the heart of buildings, is a no brainer for businesses’ employees and the bottom line.”

Key case studies in the report include:

  • Skanska cut sick days by two thirds at its office in Doncaster, UK, by making improvements to layout and noise, indoor air quality, and lighting. These efforts helped the company save £28,000 ($34,070) in staff costs in 2015.
  • Heerema Marine Contractors expects to realize a net present value of €42 million ($47 million) over 20 years in productivity, staff retention, and reduced absenteeism at its new office in Amsterdam, by improving air quality, increasing thermal comfort, and maximizing daylight.
  • Saint-Gobain’s call center staff at its new North American headquarters doubled its productivity after moving into the new building, with a 97% increase in sales-generated leads and 101% increase in leads per call. The building has a fitness center, 1.3 miles of walking trails, more than 100 collaborative workspaces, and 92% of offices have outdoor views.

A Call To Action

The WorldGBC has developed a simple framework to help companies take action: It calls on them to assess key environmental factors which affect health and wellbeing, survey employees to find out how they experience them, and measure the economic factors they influence, such as productivity, absenteeism, and medical costs.

Click image to enlarge. (Credit: World Green Building Council)

The report identifies eight key factors in creating healthier and greener offices which can impact on the bottom line:

  • Indoor Air Quality and Ventilation: A well-ventilated office can double cognitive ability.
  • Thermal Comfort: Staff performance can fall 6% if offices are too hot and 4% if they too cold.
  • Daylighting and Lighting: A study found workers in offices with windows got 46 minutes more sleep a night than workers without them.
  • Noise and Acoustics: Noise distractions led to 66% drop in performance and concentration;
  • Interior Layout and Active Design: Flexible working helps staff feel more in control of workload and encourages loyalty.
  • Biophilia and Views: Processing time at one call centrt improved by 7-12% when staff had a view of nature.
  • Look and Feel: Visual appeal is a major factor in workplace satisfaction.
  • Location and Access to Amenities: A Dutch cycle-to-work plan saved €27m ($29m) in absenteeism.

Over 20 national Green Building Councils around the world are championing the cause of healthy green buildings, through certification and rating tools, research, and stakeholder engagement to show how organizations all over the world are profiting from increasing the health and wellbeing of the people in their green buildings.

“The business case for healthy buildings is being proven,” said Beth Ambrose, Director within the Upstream Sustainability Services team at JLL, and Chair of the WorldGBC Offices Working Group. “All over the world, companies, both large and small, are redesigning their offices, changing working practices, and trialing new technologies, to improve the wellbeing of their staff, tenants, and customers.”