Working on Wellness: Simple Steps To Healthier, Happier Office Environments


Want to perk up your work life? Buy some plants.

It sounds simple, but a recent report by the University of Twente, VU Amsterdam and CBRE suggest it’s true. The study of 124 employees at CBRE’s Amsterdam office found that adding plants to the office floor boosted engagement in 76 percent of the workers surveyed. Happiness went up in 78 percent of employees, while feelings of healthiness improved in 65 percent.

Those numbers translated into better work, as well. The addition of office flora boosted performance by 10 percent, based both on worker interviews and an objective performance test.

A wide range of research suggests that work environments can have notable effects on employee happiness and productivity. With this in mind, the Twente, VU Amsterdam and CBRE researchers set out to pin down exactly what aspects of an office environment might have significant effects, and to measure what they were.

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The CBRE report found that adding plants to the office floor boosted engagement in 76 percent of workers surveyed.

To do this, they studied three groups of CBRE employees over seven months, gathering data from multiple sources, including surveys, experiments, activity trackers and interviews.

The first group sat in a section of the office where various interventions were undertaken to improve the healthiness of their surroundings. They also wore activity trackers to quantify their behavior over the course of the experiment. The second group sat in the same area but didn’t wear activity trackers, so as to help the researchers control for the possible effects of using these devices. The third group, the control group, sat in a section of the office that remained unchanged and were not exposed to any of the interventions being studied.

A health-conscious workplace makes for happier, more effective employees.

The results? It turns out that a healthier worker is a happier and more productive worker. That might seem obvious enough, but the magnitude of the changes were in some cases quite striking.

Take plants, for instance. A ten percent performance boost from some extra greenery? Not bad. But how about a switch from office snacks like soda and coffee to healthier options like nuts, fruit and decaffeinated tea? The study found that this change boosted performance by 45 percent based on objective experiments.

In all, the researchers looked at the effect of five interventions on worker health and performance: the aforementioned plants and food, as well as better lighting; use of meditation, massage, napping and other restorative techniques; and increased exercise levels. They looked at how these changes improved employee work quality, as well as their self-reported energy, happiness and health levels.

Each of the five changes led to improvements in every area analyzed. Some improvements were particularly notable. For instance, increased use of techniques like meditation and yoga raised work performance by 30 percent, and healthier food alternatives boosted energy levels in 78 percent of employees.

Of course, there were some mixed messages. For example, increased exercise made 65 percent of workers feel more energized and 71 percent feel healthier. Nonetheless, it made just 36 percent of workers happier, suggesting that, in some cases anyway, what’s good for us and what makes us happy are two different things.

Generally speaking, however, a health-conscious workplace makes for happier, more effective employees. Even better, the study’s findings suggest that the benefits don’t stop there. In fact, the researchers found that changes in the office environment encouraged workers to make similar changes in their overall lifestyles.

It’s taking your work home with you, but in a good way.


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