Japanese study quantifies benefits of having a high-quality office

A better-designed workplace not only supports work efficiency and worker health but also drives a company’s economic performance, according to novel research carried out in Tokyo

A new study by Japanese researchers has determined that the quality of the office environment significantly affects work efficiency and worker health – and that a high-quality approach can be a key step in maximising a company’s economic growth.

The study, published in September  2023 in the journal Building and Environment, investigated how office environmental elements impact work efficiency and worker health, while also analysing the economic benefits of optimising these elements. Its novelty lies in the fact that previous research studies have not focused simultaneously on work efficiency and worker health, nor have they quantified the economic benefits of optimising office environments.

The Japanese research team led by academics from Hosei University surveyed 1,644 workers in 29 office buildings in Tokyo, collecting data on the built environment through worker questionnaires and physical IEQ (indoor air quality) measurements such as temperature, air quality, lighting and noise. They then compared the perceived work efficiency to that in an ‘ideal’ office, with maximum work efficiency, to estimate the economic value provided by the built environment.

Extent of presenteeism

They also looked at the extent of presenteeism in the Japanese and its impact on productivity. The study, led by Professor Shun Kawakubo from the Faculty of Engineering and Design at Hosei University, Japan, included colleagues Shiro Arata and Masaki Sugiuchi from Hosei University, and others.

The study found that participants perceived their work efficiency to be at an average of about 77 per cent. Presenteeism varied but the average drop in performance due to presenteeism was about 34 per cent. The effects of overall office environment elements on perceived work efficiency and presenteeism were also examined in the study. 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,’ observed Prof Kawakubo. Similarly, a better overall office environment was linked to lower performance loss due to presenteeism.

The study also revealed that higher quality elements, such as ‘interior and furnishings’, ‘overall building sanitation’, ‘airflow from heating, ventilation, and air conditioning’, and ‘meeting space’ were associated with higher perceived work efficiency.

As well as concluding that high-quality office environments can yield economic benefits, the study also underscores the need globally to improve worker efficiency and employee health by developing good quality offices. Japan has traditionally provided functional, standard-grade offices. This research makes the argument for greater investment in design. Read the paper here.

WORKTECH Tokyo 2023 takes place of 6 December. Conference details here. This article is a partnership with SALUS Global Knowledge Exchange, a content partner of WORKTECH Academy.
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