People perform 10% better in a healthy office

Multidisciplinary research conducted by University of Twente and CBRE reveals startling results

Does a healthy working environment contribute to employees’ well-being, health and ability to perform? The answer is a resounding yes. Unique, in-depth research conducted by the University of Twente and international real estate adviser CBRE confirms it. The results of the research into the relationship between a focus on health & well-being at work and employees’ effectiveness are striking. The experiments reveal that people operate more effectively and perform better in a healthy, inspiring working environment. They also say that they feel happier, more energetic and healthier. The research results have been compiled and presented in the e-paper entitled The Snowball Effect of Healthy Offices.

Time for action
We spend the majority of our time in our workplace. It is a place where a focus on health is a relatively new development and where burnout is a common and increasing worldwide phenomenon. Time for action, thought Elizabeth C. Nelson, PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Twente. Her research team joined forces with CBRE and conducted a scientific study in CBRE's working environment.

Distinctive and scientific
Although this is not the first time that research has been conducted into the impact of working environments on employees’ potential, previous studies have often looked at extreme situations. This is the first time that research of this kind has been conducted in ‘normal’ situations and with ‘healthy’ people.

The study by the University of Twente and CBRE brings together business and science and is distinctive because of its duration, scope and the different methods used. Over a seven-month period, research was conducted at CBRE’s Amsterdam headquarters. A total of 124 employees participated in this multidisciplinary study. For two months, data was collected with no changes (‘normal situation’) followed by a five-month period in which one element was adapted each month. Parts of the workplaces were fitted out with more plants, better lighting and participants were encouraged to exercise more, relax, eat more healthily and drink less coffee.

The effect of these changes on employees’ performance exceeded all of the research team’s expectations. All of the experiments showed an improvement in performance within the healthy working environment. Other methods were also used in addition to these experiments, including daily questionnaires, one-to-one interviews and activity trackers. A total of more than 100,000 data points were collected.

The changes that were made to the office environment have a positive impact on employees’ well-being. The opportunity to live healthily at the office made them feel good and this also appears to have a positive impact on their effectiveness. Making modifications to the working environment can also be a smart business investment. The introduction of healthier offices can result in the cost of people taking sick leave, cases of burnout and high staff turnover being dramatically reduced or even eradicated. Figure 1 provides a summary of the most important research results in an easy-to-read format.

Snowball effect
The study had an unexpected, but surprising, consequence: the participants actually took their new healthier habits home with them. Researcher Elizabeth C. Nelson refers to this as a snowball effect: 

Elizabeth C. Nelson, promovendus Biomedical Engineering
The research proved to be infectious. Participants not only drank more water at the office, they also opted for water with fruit rather than soft drinks or coffee even when at home. The impact of the research was so powerful. The healthy adaptations influenced their time spent at the office, but also their free time. The participants' partners and children became enthusiastic too.
Elizabeth C. Nelson, promovendus Biomedical Engineering

Empowering workplace
Wouter Oosting, Senior Director, Workplace Strategies & Design CBRE, is convinced that change is in the air. He gives speeches in the Netherlands and abroad about the research into the effects of healthy workplace adaptations and his message is resonating.

Wouter Oosting, Senior Director Workplace Strategies & Design
With the help of wearable technologies and the right working environment, organisations can encourage their people to get the best out of themselves, both in terms of health and performance. In this way, the business community can play an important role in reducing cases of burnout, as well as improving the quality and performance of organisations. Currently, we tend to see things from the perspective of the building, but it is actually about the people working there. I am convinced that, in the future, we will start building offices that put people’s health first.
Wouter Oosting, Senior Director Workplace Strategies & Design
About CBRE

CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE:CBRE), a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company headquartered in Los Angeles, is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm (based on 2019 revenue). The company has more than 100,000 employees (excluding affiliates) and serves real estate investors and occupiers through more than 530 offices (excluding affiliates) worldwide. CBRE offers a broad range of integrated services, including facilities, transaction and project management; property management; investment management; appraisal and valuation; property leasing; strategic consulting; property sales; mortgage services and development services. Please visit our website at