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Better Places for a Better Bottom Line

By Elspeth Holland & Colin Powell
Posted on August 23, 2016

As Better Places for People prepares to release a new report on global actions in Offices that improve the health, wellbeing, and productivity of employees, we examine again why indoor air quality, employee satisfaction, and productivity are linked to a better bottom line.


In the WorldGBC’s 2014 Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices report, we provided the evidence that strongly links office environments and productivity in the workplace. There was the 2015 study by Harvard on the cognitive improvements of office occupants as the carbon dioxide concentration was moderated, showing how indoor air quality (IAQ) affects productivity.  There was the 2010 study that showed air conditioning reduced productivity of workers – a plateau of productivity when the office temperature was in the mid 20°C range – showing how thermal comfort affects productivity. And a 2013 US study showed that when employees were more comfortable with more control over windows and ventilation, they were more engaged with work. We know that environment and experience affect productivity.

The “rule of 90” explains why health, wellbeing, and productivity should be important to those who occupy offices. Staff costs make up 90% of the operating costs for an organization.

Rule of 90

If your IAQ is reducing their productivity, then you’re wasting money. If an employee isn’t comfortable in the office, then you could lose them and thus waste money: replacing an employee can cost 1.5 to 2 times their salary. Investing in the health, wellbeing, and productivity of your employees makes sense to your bottom line.

Two specific metrics that are impacted by building environment, absenteeism and presenteeism, have huge costs to employers. Absenteeism, the habitual and unscheduled absence from work that is associated with poor mental health and burnout and presenteeism, when ill-feeling employees come to work and aren’t working productively, has been the subject of a host of research projects across the globe

Employees and employers would benefit from realizing how their office space affects their health, productivity and the bottom line. It is crucial that we continue to measure the health and satisfaction of our staff in order to address productivity issues with economic impacts internally and globally.