Productivity Hacks for the Workplace


Emphasizing wellness in the workplace isn’t just for the benefit of a worker’s health. Companies that invest in healthy living programs can directly impact employee productivity and retain staff. 

Paul Scialla, founder of the International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI) and Delos®, believes work and wellness go hand in hand. Office space has the potential to have a positive impact on the overall health of a workforce, Scialla told Blueprint, presented by CBRE

Office space has the potential to have a positive impact on the overall health of a workforce.

“When you can really understand that the spatial components have the potential to add measurable value to the health, well-being and happiness of building occupants passively and constantly, that’s a huge leg up,” Scialla says. “It has potential elements to address long-term healthcare costs. This is a win-win.”

CBRE’s Downtown Los Angeles headquarters was the first to be certified under the WELL® Building Standard pilot program, the first building standard of its kind to focus exclusively on how to maximize people’s health and well-being through the physical environment. 

Now, CBRE is building on the accomplishments at its headquarters at the newly renovated Masonic Temple in Glendale, Calif., which opened its doors to about 120 CBRE employees this week. The nine-story property, originally completed in 1929, was restored by building owner Caruso Affiliated. The property features a mix of creative office space, with room for ground-floor retail and restaurants. The CBRE space also emphasizes employees’ health, well-being and productivity.

As part of the firm’s global workplace strategy evolution, and in partnership with Caruso, CBRE is offering its employees a unique approach to boosting productivity: a hospitality team to handle employees’ personal tasks, from grocery shopping to dry cleaning. It is meant to allow for more time to focus on work during the day, and more time with family at night.

In addition to the physical features of and services at a building, here are some health tips and “hacks” that workers can try to maximize their health and productivity. 

Stand Up

Onno Zwaneveld, executive vice president of CBRE—who is based at the firm’s Downtown Los Angeles headquarters—says that working at a stand-up/sit-down desk has had a marked improvement on his own health and daily output. 

Standing uses more muscles than sitting, so standing can also help burn additional calories.

“Standing uses more muscles than sitting, so standing can also help burn additional calories,” says Cedric X. Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise. “One of the best ways to significantly increase your physical activity level throughout the work day is to have an adjustable standing desk that allows you to sit or stand throughout the day, depending on the requirements of the work task, your level of fatigue or personal preference.” 

An added bonus of a convertible workspace is that those who stand at their desks also come across as being more authoritative, says Zwaneveld.

“We spend much of our time on the phone all day, so hopefully that is coming across in our communications, whether we’re in negotiations or presenting to a new client over the phone,” he adds. 

A growing number of companies are beginning to understand the negative consequences of sitting for too long and are offering stand-up desks for their employees, says Bryant. 

Consider your office lighting

Delos’ Scialla says electric light can have a meaningful impact on a person’s sleep-wake cycle and their natural circadian rhythm. Circadian-relevant lighting can boost energy and increase mental acuity for workers during the day, while enhancing sleep patterns at night. 

“Given that we are spending 90 percent of our time indoors, we’re basically not getting the right exposure to the natural sun patterns,” he says. “What that’s doing is disrupting our natural circadian rhythm. If you don’t have circadian-appropriate lighting inside that can help mimic the type of light you are supposed to get during the day, it’s kicking off various signals to your body that aren’t conducive to work and productivity.”


The never-ending influx of emails that workers deal with on a daily basis can overwhelm them. Juggling several tasks at once, too, can bring about more stress to an already busy workday. A good way to remain competitive, keep a clear head and feel centered is to meditate. It also helps workers make better business decisions.

In a recent study by INSEAD in France, workers who spent at least 15 minutes practicing a “mindfulness” meditation were 77 percent more likely to avoid making bad, and costly, decisions. 

The “Airplane” Strategy

Flying can be a hassle. Then again, for professor Bryan Guido Hassin, the lack of Wi-Fi access, relative quiet atmosphere, and virtually no phone access while traveling on an airplane offers him the perfect environment to tackle a heavy workload. So Hassin created “airplane days,” where he limits his access to Internet and telephone and tackles his high-priority tasks. “I block it out of my shared calendar and treat it as if I were in the air: working out of the office, disabling my phone and shutting off network connections on my laptop,” Hassin told

Take a Walk

A simple 10- to 30-minute walk during a lunch break can clear the mind, make people more enthused about their work and make them better suited to deal with their afternoons. People who walked were more engaged in their work, had a better attitude in their work and showed improved fitness, according to a recent study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.  

The layout and design of an office can help encourage walking. Offices certified under the WELL Building Standard, including CBRE’s Downtown LA headquarters, incorporate a design approach that promotes walking and stair-climbing by using more accessible and attractive features that discourage reliance on elevators. CBRE’s Masonic Temple offices will integrate a similar idea through the incorporation of a prominent spiral staircase, a first for a CBRE office, which will promote walking between floors.

Two-Minute Rule

One way to combat procrastination is to act quickly upon receiving a new task. Productivity consultant David Allen suggests tackling your to-do list by breaking it into things that can be done in two minutes and then attacking it immediately to strike it off the list. In other words, if something can be done in two minutes, don’t dawdle and just do it. 



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