November 2014

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Is Your Office a Downer?

Five Green Design Secrets of Best Places to Work
Bob BestBob Best,
Executive Vice President,
Energy & Sustainability Services,

World Green Building Council and JLL research finds that green offices really do make a measurable difference in employee health, well-being and productivity.

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Is your office bringing you down, with depressing lighting, stuffy air, too hot or too cold temperatures, no outdoor views and too much noise? These office design elements not only make employees unhappy at work, they also make them less productive, according to a new report released at the Greenbuild International Conference  from the World Green Building Council (WGBC) and JLL.
Employees have instinctively known for years that the physical features of an office can make them feel inspired, connected and energetic, or sluggish, isolated and less motivated. This new report demonstrates just how much physical office space can affect employee productivity.

The WGBC and JLL report, titled Health, well-being and productivity in offices: The next chapter for green building, unearths five secrets about how green offices create a better place to work:

  1. I need some [clean] air.” Improving air quality can make a big difference in how office workers feel and function at work. According to the report, numerous studies show that high levels of CO2 and volatile organic compounds (VOCs, which are common in building materials) make employees feel tired and less able to think clearly. In particular, a 2011 lab test mimicking an office with high levels of VOCs found that increasing ventilation improved workplace performance by eight percent. Air temperature makes a difference, too; employee productivity declines by four percent when the office is too cold and by six percent when it is too hot.
  2. Office workers’ new best friend: a pet plant. Biophilia, which is the concept that humans connect with other living things, is an emerging area of workplace design and it’s good news for employees. A plant—yes, a live plant—can help lower office stress, improve cognitive function and enhance creativity. Make sure to have a plant in sight at work and occasionally gaze around the office, as views of other groups or the outdoors create visual breaks that make office workers more productive. 
  3. Let the sunshine in. Office workers should sit near a window or take a walk outside during the workday. It not only makes them happier, it also leads to higher-quality sleep that in turn boosts productivity. Many traditional office layouts only allow senior managers to have access to natural light, so reconfiguring the workplace ensures everyone can see the light.
  4. Dial down the decibels. Noise pollution is consistently reported as a major cause of workplace dissatisfaction, and one 1998 study found that participants’ ability to memorize prose dropped by 66 percent when exposed to distracting noise. Offices should have a variety of work spaces so employees are empowered to work in a collaborative, discussion space or individual, heads-down space, reducing excess noise and increasing staff productivity. 
  5. “Give me some space.” In the quest to cut costs, many companies have adopted open office plans, “hot-desking” and other new workplace design concepts. Done well, these approaches reduce carbon footprints while providing quiet, private workspaces, meeting areas and informal social spaces. Done poorly, employee productivity suffers across the board. Companies that create unique workplace strategies tailored to their corporate culture and business goals will have employees with happy, healthy relationships with their office, and won’t be asking for more space or to “take a break.”

The key for employers is to quantify the relationship between environmental sustainability and employee productivity though data-driven measurements, and then use that data to inform a company’s workplace strategy, CSR and business goals. This correlation can be measured through a JLL program and online tool called Green + Productive™ Workplace. JLL’s tool compiles scores for both sustainability and productivity measures in an office, which can pinpoint specific activities in need of improvement and establish a baseline to maximize the use of space, reduce natural-resource consumption, provide an efficient workplace and demonstrate proof of corporate social responsibility—meanwhile improving employee engagement, wellness and productivity.

The Health, well-being and productivity in offices: The next chapter for green building report is based on an exhaustive review of primary research reports, along with insights from more than 75 industry and academic experts representing myriad disciplines, sectors and locations. The report covers research relating to indoor air quality; thermal comfort; natural and artificial lighting; noise and acoustics; office layout; views and biophilia; office look and feel; building location and access to amenities. It also proposes a framework for measuring the financial, perceptual and physical impacts of green investments.

health, well-being and productivity

Natural light in the offices of Kemira North America  not only makes employees happier, but it also leads to higher-quality sleep that, in turn, boosts productivity. Source: JLL Project & Development Services, Every Building Tells a Story

A leader in the real estate outsourcing field, JLL’s Corporate Solutions business helps corporations improve productivity in the cost, efficiency and performance of their national, regional or global real estate portfolios by creating outsourcing partnerships to manage and execute a range of corporate real estate services. This platform of transactions, lease administration, and project and facility management services is backed by expertise in consulting, workplace and portfolio strategy to provide an end-to-end service offering. This service delivery capability helps corporations improve business performance, particularly as companies turn to the outsourcing of their real estate activity as a way to manage expenses and enhance profitability.

For more news, videos and research resources on JLL, please visit the firm’s U.S. media center webpage. Bookmark it here:

About the Author
Bob Best directs energy and sustainability business operations – with responsibilities that include new business development, energy reduction programs, client sustainability efforts, performance metrics, operating standards and training. He is a LEEDŽ Accredited Professional through the U.S. Green Building Council and a Green Globes Professional through the Green Building Initiative. Best co-authored Green + Productive Workplace: The Office of the Future…Today.

About JLL
JLL (NYSE: JLL) is a professional services and investment management firm offering specialized real estate services to clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying and investing in real estate. With annual fee revenue of $4.0 billion and gross revenue of $4.5 billion, JLL has more than 200 corporate offices, operates in 75 countries and has a global workforce of approximately 53,000.  On behalf of its clients, the firm provides management and real estate outsourcing services for a property portfolio of 3.0 billion square feet, or 280.0 million square meters, and completed $99.0 billion in sales, acquisitions and finance transactions in 2013. Its investment management business, LaSalle Investment Management, has $50.0 billion of real estate assets under management. JLL is the brand name, and a registered trademark, of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated. For further information, visit

About the World Green Building Council (WGBC)
The World Green Building Council is a global coalition of more than 100 national Green Building Councils and their 27,000 member companies with a single mission: to transform the building industry and ensure buildings and cities are healthy, efficient, productive and sustainable.


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