Introduction – Health Wellbeing Productivity

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HWP in OfficesIntroduction to the:

WorldGBC Health, Wellbeing, Productivity and the Business Case report (click to download)

Go to: << Executive Summary

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“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us”

Winston Churchill

Background to the report

In 2013, WorldGBC reported on ‘The Business Case for Green Building’. One chapter, that stimulated a high degree of interest, highlighted some of the research which demonstrated that green buildings could enhance health, wellbeing and productivity for their occupants.

This is an issue that has been rising rapidly up the agenda for the global real estate market. However, that report made clear that further work was needed to translate promising academic research into information that can inform business decision-making. Amongst other findings, it suggested that despite evidence of its impact, improved indoor environmental quality has not been a priority in building design and construction, and resistance remains to incorporating it into financial decision-making.

The 2013 report also highlighted the uncertainty over which green building features or combination of features have the greatest impact on health and productivity; and noted the difficulty in turning productivity metrics into meaningful financial metrics.

Aim of this report

This report is an attempt to build momentum on the topic of health, wellbeing and productivity. It does not set out to solve all of the challenges laid out in the 2013 report, but we hope it helps to provide a framework for doing so.

It is aimed at a mainstream, non-technical real estate audience who are rightly eager to understand the business benefits of greener, healthier buildings. It is not primarily aimed at sustainability professionals, but we hope it will used by them in their discussions with clients, colleagues and customers.

Part 1 summarises the relationship between features of office building design and

the health, wellbeing and productivity of occupants, and assesses the extent to which strategies to maximise benefits to occupants are complementary to strategies to reduce energy and resource use.

The intention is to increase understanding in the real estate sector, of both the relationship between building and user, and the financial impact of that relationship. The extent to which ‘green building’ drives better outcomes for occupants is tackled

in a very transparent and honest way, which does not shy away from highlighting the contradictions and challenges as well as the win-wins. This approach also enables us to show where additional research and further innovations in office design are required.

Part 2 is intended to provide office owners, managers and occupiers with greater clarity on the measurement of health, wellbeing and productivity in the workplace, and the challenges and opportunities in translating outcomes into financial metrics. This includes practical suggestions on how to go about measurement in a consistent and robust way. In due course it is hoped this will lead to better, more consistent data, and more evidence to inform investment and design decisions.

An exhaustive process of evidence gathering has been carried out.

Process and scope

This is a complex issue, so to retain focus this report deals only with offices, and is concerned with both new and existing ones. On occasion, research is cited from non- office sectors where we think there is relevance. Similarly, the findings have resonance beyond just the office sector.

An exhaustive process of evidence gathering has been carried out, informed by a project team which was able to draw on over 50 industry and academic experts from across different disciplines, sectors and locations. Wider outreach was conducted at particular points throughout the process, including webinars that reached another 100 people, and detailed surveys of HR professionals that engaged another 25 stakeholders.

In our review of primary research, we have tried to distinguish between meta-analyses and single studies. Where we have highlighted a single study, it is because we are confident it is robust, or that it represents a larger body of work. Where a statement is presented as ‘fact’, it has not been done lightly, and every aspect of the report has been the subject of significant discussions between experts in this field.


The terms health, wellbeing and productivity are used to attempt to encompass a whole range of related and complex issues. Health encapsulates physical and mental health, while wellbeing hints at broader feelings or perceptions of satisfaction and happiness (although it could be said is very closely related to having positive mental health). Productivity tends to be used to refer more explicitly to business-oriented outputs, and

in the research we have reviewed, it includes a number of different task performance- related metrics. However, productivity is directly affected by health and wellbeing, so delineating between the three is not easy, and not always that helpful. Typically, we have simply mirrored the vocabulary used in the research we have assessed, and therefore any very specific interpretation of the terminology comes with that caveat. The terminology is more fully explored and explained in the early chapters of Part 2, and the diagram at the end of the key findings chapter should also be helpful in gaining a broad overview.

Brief acknowledgements

A special thanks goes to our corporate sponsors JLL, Lend Lease and Skanska.

This report has also been made possible by efforts of partner Green Building Councils, and in particular to the time dedicated by the GBC project team. All of those involved are fully credited in the acknowledgements at the end of the report.

HWP in OfficesIntroduction to the:

WorldGBC Health, Wellbeing, Productivity and the Business Case report (click to download)

Go to: << Executive Summary

Go to: Key findings >>

Go to: << Member Site Content

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