WorldGBC: Green offices that keep staff healthy and happy improve productivity, boost bottom line

by Brianna Crandall — November 16, 2016 — Employers, building owners, designers and developers throughout the world are showing that it pays to invest in green offices that keep their occupants healthy and happy, a new report from the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) reveals.

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 by taking tangible action to improve their workspaces.

Simple steps like improving air quality, increasing natural light and introducing greenery — as well as those that typically have environmental benefits such as using less energy — can also have a dramatic impact on the bottom line by improving employee productivity and reducing absenteeism, staff turnover and medical costs. The report is the latest to be released under WorldGBC’s Better Places for People campaign.

One of the key case studies in the Green Offices report is:

  • Doubling Call Centre Productivity — Saint-Gobain, Malvern, PA, USA (Green building rating: LEED Platinum): Saint-Gobain’s new North American headquarters has a fitness center, 1.3 miles of walking trails for its 800 staff, and more than 100 collaborative workspaces, including some outdoors, and 92% of offices have outdoor views. Call center staff doubled their productivity after moving in, with a 97% increase in sales-generated leads and 101% increase in leads per call.

Building developers and owners are also discovering that it is a smart business move to invest in healthy buildings. In a survey of 200 Canadian building owners, 30% said investment in healthier buildings had a positive impact on the building’s value, 46% said they were easier to lease, and 28% said they commanded premium rents.

Eight factors to create healthier and greener offices

The World Green Building Council has developed a simple framework to help companies take action. It calls on them to assess key environmental factors that affect health and well-being, survey employees to find out how they experience them, and measure the economic factors they influence, such as productivity, absenteeism and medical costs.

The Green Offices report identifies eight key factors in creating healthier and greener offices that can impact 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 are 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 design — Flexible working helps staff feel more in control of workload and encourages loyalty.
  • Biophilia and views — Processing time at one call center 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 program saved €27 million 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 well-being of the people in their green buildings. Research from organizations such as the International Well Building Institute and Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, supported by United Technologies (UTC), is transforming the way we understand the interaction between human health and well-being and the green workplace.

The Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices report and Executive Summary are available for free download from the Better Places for People Web site.