The Secret to Boosting Employee Productivity & Performance

A recently released report from the World Green Building Council indicates “overwhelming evidence that office design significantly impacts the health, wellbeing and productivity of staff. At PowerHouse Growers, design is something we emphasize constantly, creating awareness in regards to our surroundings. When it comes to a place of employment specifically, we believe that green design can drastically improve multiple areas of business. Fundamentally this includes the relationship with staff – who are the driving force of the organization.

Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices

A healthy, productive staff leads to a more profitable organization. Reports such as this one from the WorldGBC will help demonstrate to all business owners the importance of creating an enhanced workplace, both for human health and for profit.

1. The Evidence: Design Elements of Office Buildings

The WorldGBC report firstly explains the relationship between human health and a building’s design elements to describe what kinds of solutions can be implemented in order to deliver the types of positive results we want to see from our office buildings. Some of the most important elements of design in boosting employee productivity outlined by the WorldGBC’s report on healthy offices include:

“Green design can drastically improve multiple areas of business. Fundamentally, this includes the relationship with staff – the driving force of the organization.”

  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Daylighting & Lighting
  • Interior Layout & Design
  • Biophilia

 2. Measuring Impact: Assessing Health, Wellbeing and Productivity

Secondly, another keystone component of the report in terms of boosting employee productivity is the emphasis on measuring impact and the assessment techniques used. This is an imperative element of the green building conversation, as developers, business owners, and all types of investors want to be able to justify the design costs with measurable outcomes. These can be both financial and non-financial and are important to assess regularly.

Some of the most important aims of green building in terms of boosting employee productivity and performance include:

  •  Lowering absenteeism and overall cost per employee
  • Raising employee retention rates through greater employee satisfaction levels
  • Increasing productivity including the abilities to meet deadlines and sales quotas
  • Increasing overall company revenues

Healthy buildings are become an employee demand. Image via

Designing Healthy, Productive Offices

Here’s a look at four of the eight listed design elements from the WorldGBC report and how they impact human health, wellbeing, and productivity according to the evidence. We can also see here how each one of these elements can be measured as well.

1. Indoor Air Quality

Airborne pollutants are a major concern in office environments which are notorious for improper ventilation. Pollutants caused by offgassing materials which contain volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), get trapped in improperly ventilated buildings.

Building occupants are being exposed to pollutants potentially resulting in respiratory illness and other chronic conditions. To reverse these effects, designers must include proper air conditioning systems as well as reduce the amount of VOC’s being used during construction. Opting for eco building materials will help prevent airborne pollutants. Overall, taking proper measures to improve indoor air quality can result in productivity increases between 8-11%.

How Indoor Air Quality is Measured

Indoor air quality in office buildings can be assessed by measuring levels of:

  • Pollutants and toxins (like VOC’s)
  • Co2 levels
  • Moisture content
  • Rate of fresh air ventilation

2. Daylighting & Lighting

Similarly to the concept of biophilia (see below), humans operate at their greatest performance levels when exposed to nature. This is why the WorldGBC’s evidence presents that healthy office buildings should position workspaces to be exposed to maximum levels of daylight. By reducing levels of artificial lighting and increasing natural lighting, employees have greater eye comfort levels, mental alertness, and overall wellbeing.

Additionally, the kind of artificial used in office buildings can also affect the health, wellbeing, and productivity levels of office workers. Factors such as light intensity and spectrum are important to consider when installing lighting fixtures. LED lighting is a better alternative to conventional lighting, and though they incur greater initial costs, they last longer and therefore are a better investment over time.

How Lighting is Measured

Lighting quality in office buildings can be measured in the following ways:

  • Quantity
  • Quality
  • Glare
  • Daylight
  • Task type (computer-based or otherwise)

Green office improvements to health and productivity. Image via Canadian Green Building Council.

3. Interior Layout & Design

The layout of workspaces can also impact the health, wellbeing, and productivity of employees. Staff who are crammed into their cubicles with little space between them and their neighbors are less likely to be able to concentrate. Distractions and noise make it difficult to focus, which ultimate lowers levels of productivity and job satisfaction.

Properly configured work spaces greatly influence an employee’s ability to focus, be creative, and above all feel confident in their performance levels. Designated areas for social spaces, work stations, and break rooms and important in ensuring a good work flow in the office.

How Layout is Measured

An assessment of the existing office layout can help determine what types of changes can be made to enhance health and productivity. Here are some ways to measure the effectiveness of the office layout:

“Properly configured work spaces greatly influence an employee’s ability to focus, be creative, and above all feel confident in their performance levels.”

  • Workstation density
  • Task based spaces & ergonomics
  • Breakout spaces and social features
  • Active design

4. Biophilia

Biophilia is a big hot topic among many psychological researchers. It’s widely accepted that humans are instinctively connected to nature and need to maintain this connection in order to be happy and healthy. A lack of natural elements in an office can over time, negatively impact an employee’s health and wellbeing, ultimately leading to lower productivity.

By increasing the presence of nature in a building, staff will begin to feel more comfortable and at ease. Spending the majority of one’s time indoors takes its toll on individuals over time. Plants, water features, and other representations of nature are great solutions for offices to implement. Additionally, positioning desks towards windows allows staff the opportunity to adjust their eyes, and observe nature outdoors. Additionally, courtyards and rooftop gardens, or patios are great options for promoting the benefits of biophilia and exercise.

How Biophilia is Measured

Biophilia can be measured in a number of ways. Business owners can use PowerHouse Growers’ Plant/Life Balance and Organic Office resources to help assess the levels of nature in office buildings. Overall, businesses can look for things like:

  • Natural elements in each room
  • Work stations have views to outdoors
  • Designated natural and social areas either outdoors or indoors
  • Amount of daylight entering the building

Zappos Headquarters in Las Vegas is a green building that lets in lots of natural light. Photo by Bruce Damonte.

Communicating the Value of Green Offices

All of this evidence further proves that perhaps, for some, the best way to communicate the “case for green building” is to emphasize the human health benefits of this practice. This was originally indicated by Jane Henley, CEO of WorldGBC back in April of this year, when PowerHouse Growers interviewed her as a Visionary Leader. She described her organization as having “gained a deeper understanding of how the ‘triple bottom line’ value of green buildings has shifted the emphasis from ‘planet’ to ‘people’ and ‘profit’.” This is why the WorldGBC has undertaken this extensive research to show to business owners the importance of healthy design in ensuring employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. Not to mention, green office buildings are a terrific brand asset to the business as this practice is now generally recognized by consumer demand as “the right thing to do”.

By seeking out new design technologies and practices, business owners can take control of their buildings’ layouts and functions to create structures that enhance staff lifestyle while adding value to the bottom line. These areas listed in this article are only a few of the several ways in which offices specifically can be designed to allow for greater productivity and an overall increase in happiness and satisfaction – an ever growing concern in the current job market.

For more information on the evidence of healthy offices, check out the full report from the WorldGBC.

PowerHouse Growers wishes to thank the WorldGBC for its tremendous dedication to this important research. More importantly, we thank them for making it widely available to the masses so that we may all benefit from this knowledge.

Feature Image: Google office in Dublin, Ireland is a healthy office design. Image via

About The Author

Emily Rodgers
Emily is Editor and Co-Founder of PowerHouse Growers. Having found a passion for sustainability, she seeks to be on the cutting edge of ecological urban design. Emily's mission is to help others see the value in social and environmental responsibility so they may live happier, healthier, and more productive lives. By delivering relevant, useful, and educational news and articles that inspire action, Emily believes that all individuals, businesses, and city officials can do their part to collaboratively create sustainable communities.