Stock Groups

The office building design idea key to worker health in Covid era


A worker works with a laptop at the Salesforce Tower, San Francisco. It opened in 2018, and was inaugurated in 2018. One of the companies in this group has been focusing on air quality and building design.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Employees, managers, and top executives have taken a close look at the factors that make a workplace healthy since the Covid-19 pandemic. An influx of hand sanitizer dispensers, sanitizing wipes and social distancing signs into offices spaces was a result of the pandemic.

Joseph Allen, a Harvard professor says that there is one safety precaution offices must not overlook. Healthy workspaces depend primarily upon the quality of the air that employees inhale. Research dating back to years prior to the pandemic has shown that improved air ventilation and better air quality can lead increase cognitive function as well as work productivity.

Allen, Harvard’s Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health concluded that greater ventilation does not have a negative impact on cognitive function.

We had more than 350 employees around the world and they were followed for a whole year. Allen, an associate professor and program director, said that they had air quality sensors on their desks.

To assess how air quality affects office workers’ performance, workers will be periodically pinged using an app.

The COGfx study by Allen and other researchers should change the mindset of companies around the globe about productivity investment.

Boston Properties, Armstrong World Industries, and Salesforce are some of the U.S. companies that have worked alongside Allen either in part of his COGfx study, or as part Allen’s healthy-building consultancy team. 9 FoundationsAllen states that to improve the air quality of their buildings, it is important to “the things we know science says are important for human wellbeing, productivity, and health.”

Vin Gupta (Amazon Chief Medical Officer) stated that “the big challenge is how to ventilate.” speaking at the recent CNBC @Work SummitReferring to the Harvard research findings.

In employee education, Salesforce focuses on the air.

Many companies will be able to retain and attract talent if they have the right safety measures and feel at ease in a work environment.

Although the Salesforce Tower San Francisco opened in 2018, it has achieved high scores in environmental terms. However, Salesforce believes that employees need to understand how design and approaches go beyond energy considerations to benefit their health.

SalesforceParticipants in COGfx were required to participate. Desks had air quality sensors and the cognitive function of workers was tracked.

A regular test of indoor air quality forms part of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design), certification that is granted to green buildings under the U.S. Green Buildings Council.

“We believe that it is very important to communicate with our employees, because much of this stuff doesn’t get seen. They don’t even know. The plaque is a LEED sign. They are not aware of the process involved in obtaining a LEED certification,” Amanda von Almen (head, sustainable built environment), Salesforce.

Sean Luster, Salesforce’s vice president for workplace services and real estate, said that it is all about creating a safe environment for everyone. It’s a behavior change that affects many employees.

Employer ‘flight for quality’ ventilation

Boston PropertiesAllen has collaborated with, an investment trust that holds office buildings in the United States, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

Ben Myers (Vice President of Sustainability at Boston Properties), stated that he leaves a monitor in his office. We have indoor air quality monitors that measure CO2 concentration. This was Dr. Joe Allen’s contribution. We were made aware by Dr. Joe Allen of the effects of high CO2 concentrations upon cognitive performance.

Boston Properties believes that health will play a greater role in commercial tenant selections.

Myers stated, “What we’re seeing is a flight towards quality.” Higher quality office spaces are more profitable than less-quality office spaces in terms tenant retention and rents. … These higher quality buildings are expected to have superior indoor air quality. 

Myers explained that measuring productivity is difficult, but companies can easily measure the air quality and run regular checks for any contaminants.

“Boston Properties has set a minimum testing requirement in its buildings of twice per year for air quality parameters to be in line with CO2 concentration, and regularly testing for air contaminants like mold, to make sure that the buildings have healthy conditions. Myers stated, “And that’s all you can do.”

Our health is dependent on our work environment

Vic Grizzle (president and CEO) of Armstrong World Industries, A business that creates and manufactures ceiling, wall, suspension and other system solutions for commercial and residential customers. The story does not end here. Grizzle explained that it is crucial to evaluate the performance of a building after improvements have been made. Hear about carbon dioxide levels, temperature and humidity, as these can all affect productivity.

Armstrong World Industries built a Living Lab at its corporate headquarters where people can experiment, try and test various ways to increase air control and make cleaner air.

“Logically and intuitively it makes sense that spaces such as the Living Lab have excellent air quality, along with great lighting, acoustics and cleanliness. People will feel more well.” Grizzle stated. Feeling good makes us more productive, optimistic, and able to think and process at the highest level. This is why productivity can be achieved.

The recent CNBC Workforce Executive CouncilSummit Allen stated to human resource leaders that healthy buildings should be their first line of defense. … Our problem is that we have been underventilating homes, offices, and buildings for decades. They’re the result of 40 years of wrong design, which has closed them off and cut off airflow.

We should expect clean air inside our offices just like we expect clean water from the faucet. That’s it. Realize that paradigm shifts are underway. Allen stated that this paradigm shift isn’t going away. special: Mikaela Cohen

Are you missing this year’s CNBC At Work Summit? You can access the entire sessions online at