NEW YORK—A study published in Building & Environment found organizations that achieved WELL Certification experienced higher-performing workplaces than their non-certified peers, underscoring the importance of prioritizing employee health and well-being in buildings.
The study, “The potential of high-performance workplaces for boosting worker productivity, health, and creativity: A comparison between WELL and non-WELL certified environments,” published in the September edition of Building & Environment, analyzed the largest data set of occupant responses to date comparing performance between WELL Certified and non-certified workplaces across the Asia-Pacific region, including New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong.
“Our findings show that benefits related to satisfaction, health, productivity, and creativity may be achieved by following the WELL Building Standard,” the study’s authors conclude.
The researchers found that employee satisfaction across various building aspects improved significantly in WELL Certified offices compared to non-WELL Certified offices. “In general, satisfaction with 20 of 23 aspects related to the physical environment were significantly higher in WELL [Certified] offices,” says the study.
Connection to Outdoors is Key
Specifically, respondents in WELL offices were 18 percent more satisfied with access to sunlight, 17 percent more satisfied with acoustical privacy, 16 percent more satisfied with connection to the outdoor environment, 12 percent more satisfied with lighting, 11 percent more satisfied with thermal comfort, and 10 percent more satisfied with both indoor air quality and air movement.
In addition, WELL Certified offices also had 12 percent lower Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) complaints, and 6 percent lower musculoskeletal complaints than non-WELL projects.
WELL Certified offices also reported higher levels of satisfaction with their organization’s culture of health, with significant differences found in levels of satisfaction around inclusive culture, health promotion programs, a positive environment, and engagement.
“We’re excited to see the release of this signature study, the largest of its kind, showing the tremendous benefits of WELL Certification,” said Rachel Hodgdon, President and CEO, International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the developers of the WELL Building Standard. “This peer-reviewed study provides robust evidence that WELL can have a transformative effect on employee health, productivity and creativity—an imperative that organizations globally are not just recognizing, but actively prioritizing.”
Survey Looked at Four Factors
The paper, utilizing the robust Sustainable Healthy Environments (SHE) survey methodology developed by the University of Melbourne, as well as interviews and on-site visits, compares WELL Certified vs non-WELL Certified projects for significant differences in occupant satisfaction across four factors the authors identified as characteristic of high-performing workplaces: layout and interior design; indoor environmental quality (IEQ), privacy and outdoor connection, and organizational aspects.
“I’m thrilled to take the lead on this paper and provide the much-needed evidence about actual performance of WELL Certified spaces. This study also demonstrates the opportunities and importance of leveraging the quality of interior design and its effect on people,” said Samin Marzban, the paper’s lead author.
“We are seeing an important focus on monitoring and evaluation of healthy building interventions globally. While a focus on financial benefits and the return on investment is important, so too are the responses of the occupants and the health outcomes associated with these interventions,” said Jack Noonan, Vice President, Asia-Pacific, IWBI. “This study, using the world leading SHE survey, begins to answer the pivotal questions: do people in WELL Certified spaces feel healthier and do they respond differently to their indoor environments. This study firmly establishes the benefits of WELL, and I’m proud to see that such distinguished research organizations in Australia are leading this work.”
Among the WELL Certified spaces, researchers were able to isolate and identify the specific design interventions involved in creating healthier work environments. In looking at metrics for productivity, they found that acoustic and visual privacy and connection to the outdoor environment were the strongest predictors.
Backs Up Previous Research
In relation to creativity, layout and interior design were the strongest predictors, while acoustic privacy and connection to the outdoors was the strongest predictor of overall health—a clear nod to the extensive research already undertaken in regards to access to nature.
“It is a pleasure pioneering this work within APAC and seeing the results of the survey showing the value-add from WELL-certified spaces. By continuing to expand our understanding of high-performance workplaces, we can push the baseline up and deliver spaces where people can thrive in,” said Prof. Christhina Candido, Director of the Sustainable and Healthy Environments Lab and project lead.
The study is especially relevant as more organizations see their workforces returning to the office in a larger capacity, not to mention stronger, more intense market demand for higher quality, better performing workplaces that boost productivity and help attract and retain top talent.
This study also aligns with earlier findings from another peer-reviewed study in Building & Environment released last year. That study, based upon pre- and post-occupancy survey data, found WELL Certification showed a series of statistically significant occupant benefits, including a near 30 percent improvement in overall satisfaction with the workplace, which jumped from 42 percent to 70 percent; a 26 percent overall increase in reported well-being scores; a 10 percent increase in perceived mental health and a 2 percent increase in perceived physical health; and a 10-point jump in median productivity scores.
WELL Certification indicates verified application of the WELL Building Standard, which includes a set of strategies—backed by the latest scientific research—that aim to advance human health through design interventions and operational protocols and policies and foster a culture of health and well-being.
To learn more about WELL Certification, and how investing in health pays back, visit here.