The Productivity Equation

Jul 29, 2019 10:10 AM ET

by Cynthia Curtis, Senior Vice President, JLL  

The perception of the role of buildings is shifting to more of an enabler of creative, innovative work, of enhanced productivity. Core to that is the view through a sustainability lens. 

Emotional. Memorable. Authentic. These words conjure up a variety of images. For some in my business they might be those you’d associate with the late, great I.M. Pei. But my guess is they wouldn’t evoke visions of many commercial real estate buildings. However, they’re exactly the words the architects used to describe the new Amazon building going up in Boston’s Seaport District.

Driven primarily by rapid digitalization, the very nature of how, when and where we work is changing. And so too the role that our workplaces and buildings play in that dynamic. Real estate in general is becoming much more of an extension of the Human Resources strategy; factoring in to how we attract, retain and engage top talent. Human-centric designs offering engaging spaces with natural lighting, fresh air, green spaces, EV charging options and proximity to public transportation are just some of the sustainability elements focused on the needs of the occupant.

The bar has been raised on expectations. Gone are the days when office amenities were a nice desk with good lighting, free coffee and pizza on Fridays. Today it’s about the experience – individual and collective – and healthy, flexible workspaces. At JLL we see it every day. We know from our experience that healthy buildings promote healthy occupants, which correlates to improved productivity. We’re able to demonstrate to our clients how smart infrastructure investments can enhance the health and productivity of their most valuable asset, their people.

According to the World Green Building Council Report “Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices”, the average annual cost breakdown for an office-based business is: One percent for energy, nine percent for rent and operations, and the remaining 90 percent for staffing costs. It’s information like this that makes clear the business case for people-centered investment decisions in our buildings and workspaces. 

Recently, Generation Investment Management announced a $1 billion Sustainable Solutions Fund, its largest growth fund to date. Targeted at later-stage start-ups, the focus includes the future of work. As co-founder Al Gore said, “…we’re in the early stages of a technology led sustainability revolution, which has the scale of the industrial revolution, and the pace of the digital revolution.” With 35 percent of REIT properties having geographic exposure to climate hazards, we need that scale and pace.

The breadth of sustainability investments in physical assets is increasingly being influenced by more than the traditional players of finance, facilities and real estate managers. Recognizing that a sustainably-designed and healthy workplace directly impacts attitude, satisfaction level and more importantly productivity, has led to human capital management and sustainability functions becoming integral and influential in the decision-making process.

Read Cynthia's full article and her bio all at 


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