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The greener the building, the healthier the workforce

Quality of Life Observer

- Corporate

- Jun 3 2016

The LEED-certified building, originally hailed for its environmentally friendly-design is now being linked to higher employee productivity and cognitive function and even increased recruitment and retention rates.

The outdated “conventional” buildings that we know today were actually designed with energy efficiency in mind decades ago. When energy costs skyrocketed back in the 1970s, architects began designing more efficient, airtight buildings to reduce energy consumption. Unfortunately, with these savings also came lower ventilation and ultimately poor levels of indoor environmental quality (IEQ). Shortly after, in the 80s, the first reports of sick building syndrome began to pop up.


Today’s modern architects now create buildings that are both environmentally friendly as well as occupant-friendly. The LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification is the most widely used third-party green building label. Today there are more than 20,000 LEED-certified buildings across the world, with another 1.85 million square-feet certified daily. These buildings are held to a high standard and use less water and energy and produce less greenhouse gas emissions. Aside from the obvious environmental gain, studies show that employees working in these healthy buildings produce higher levels of employee well-being and productivity.


Decision-makers in every country surveyed — from 71% in Australia to 93% in China and India — considered energy management very or extremely important to their organizations.

Prioritizing the indoor environment

The widespread implementation of green buildings is likely linked to the fact that we have become largely indoor creatures. The average person spends roughly 90 percent of the day inside - making the quality of the air we breathe inside, as well as other environmental factors, just as important as the great outdoors. In short, a building can either be a space that promotes health and well-being or it can coop up its inhabitants in an environment of poor air quality, extreme temperatures, humidity and reduced ventilation. According to The American Public Health Association, the later has been shown to lead to health concerns such as asthma and respiratory diseases. Employees with these types of conditions are generally absent from work more often and less productive; whereas, environments with increased ventilation have seen 11 percent bumps in productivity.


Employees who work in healthy IEQ settings are also more likely to report better health outcomes, fewer sick building syndrome symptoms, better physical and mental health, improved productivity, lower employee turnover and higher retention rates.


Clearly, a winning choice

In order to determine the benefits of green buildings, a recent study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, SUNY Upstate Medical University and Syracuse University placed individuals in conventional building environments as well as green building environments. After observing their performance in both settings over the course of six full workdays, study leaders determined that participants’ cognitive performance was 61 percent higher when in green buildings. In this setting, their critical response scores were also 97 percent higher, informational usage scores were 172 percent higher and their ability to strategize, plan and prioritize was 183 percent higher when compared to the conventional setting.


Looking ahead, the world’s decision leaders are prioritizing green buildings. The Institute for Building Efficiency’s global study reported that decision-makers worldwide consider energy management very or extremely important. With green action plans in place, companies can address the environmental dimension of Quality of Life, thereby enabling greater worker efficiency and satisfaction.

Sodexo accompanies its clients in obtainging the LEED certification. See how Sodexo helped Bancolombia, Colombia’s largest bank, increase operating efficiency and meet their sustainable goals for the next century. 

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The greener the building, the healthier the workforce

The LEED-certified building, originally hailed for its environmentally friendly-design is now being linked to higher employee productivity and cognitive function and even increased recruitment and retention rates.

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