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  • Writer's pictureNancy Griffin

Japanese Study Underscores Importance of Healthy Work Environment for Productivity

Updated: Apr 18

Creating and maintaining an optimized workplace can be a key step in maximizing a company’s economic growth.

In a new study, researchers from Japan have quantified the economic benefits associated with the elements of an office environment. The research shows that the quality of one's working environment significantly affects work efficiency and employee wellbeing. The study, published in the journal Building and Environment, investigated how office environmental elements impact work efficiency and worker health, while also analyzing the economic benefits of optimizing these elements.

Surveying 1,644 workers in 29 office buildings in Tokyo, Japanese researchers collected data on the built environment through worker questionnaires and physical IEQ measurements. They then compared the perceived work efficiency (reported by workers) in offices to that in an “ideal” office with maximum work efficiency to estimate the economic value provided by the built environment. Similarly, they looked at the extent of presenteeism (working while sick) and compared it to a scenario where workers faced no health-related barriers to work.

The study found that participants perceived their work efficiency to be at an average of approximately 77 percent. Presenteeism varied, with some participants reporting no symptoms in the last 30 days, with others experiencing symptoms every day. The average decrease in performance due to presenteeism was approximately 34 percent.

A better overall office environment was associated with higher perceived work efficiency among workers.

“Workers in offices with lower environmental performance had low work efficiency, while those in higher-performing offices had high work efficiency. The 16.8-point difference in work efficiency between workers in offices with relatively good and poor environments equates to an annual economic benefit of about $7,000, highlighting the financial advantages of a good work environment,” says Professor Shun Kawakubo from the Faculty of Engineering and Design at Hosei University, Japan, who led the study.

Similarly, a better overall office environment was linked to lower performance loss due to presenteeism. “The better the office environment, the lower the amount of loss due to presenteeism,” he adds. “The difference in annual economic loss due to presenteeism between workers in offices with relatively low environmental performance and workers in offices with relatively high environmental performance was about $3."

The study also revealed that higher quality elements such as interior and furnishings, overall building sanitation, airflow from HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), and meeting space were associated with higher perceived work efficiency. Elements like disaster and emergency, thermal environment, lightning environment, and telecommunication networks were associated with lower economic losses due to presenteeism. The estimated economic benefits related to perceived work efficiency were greater than those associated with presenteeism.

The study concludes that offices can boost economic benefits and underscores the global need for enhancing worker efficiency as well as employee health by developing good quality offices. “Today, companies around the world are reaffirming the importance of human capital,” says Kawakubo. “We believe that widespread recognition of the fact that investment in the creation of a good office environment is directly linked to maintaining and improving the health of office workers and increasing the productivity of the company as a whole, will contribute to the building of a healthier society.”


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