WELL Certification, Lighting, and Employee Productivity

As more businesses focus on sustainability and ways to use technology to reduce energy costs, green building certifications such as LEED are receiving more attention.  So is the WELL Certification, first put forward in 2013.

WELL is technically not a green standard, though it does save energy for most businesses. Instead, WELL is focused on the health and wellness of those who use the building, providing benefits to employees (and customers) as well as the employer. As of this writing, the facilities that have received a WELL Certification comprise 2.7 billion square feet of commercial space.

How Does the WELL Certification Work?

The WELL standard covers seven factors or “Core Concepts” in a building that impact health, well-being, and productivity.

  • Air Cleanliness
  • Water—Clean and readily available
  • Nourishment—Food that is made available is wholesome and nutritious; highly-processed food is limited
  • Light—Adequate for productivity and friendly to the body’s circadian rhythms
  • Fitness—The building design includes features that promote activity and/or avoids features that promote sedentary behaviors
  • Comfort—The design supports ergonomics as well as thermal, acoustic, and olfactory comfort.
  • Mind—Measures building factors (from noise level to crowding) and workplace procedures that support or detract from mental wellbeing

Facilities are scored on 36 required points and 62 “optimizations,” then receive a rating of Silver, Gold, or Platinum based on their total score. The certification lasts three years.

Is the Certification Worth It?

It almost goes without saying that those who look out for employees and customers will see a better bottom line, but sometimes those efforts are subject to diminishing returns. Is a WELL Certification worth the investment?

Real world results say “yes.” Cundall, an engineering consultancy, reported they had already seen a positive ROI just three months after certification. Even better, that result was based solely on sick leave and attrition and did not take any other factors into account.

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) found that all the workplace parameters they were regularly measuring had improved, and a study of their workforce by Cornell University found that employees’ satisfaction with their work environment and overall job satisfaction was higher.

Facilities with WELL Certifications also saw:

  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced “presenteeism,” the term for employees showing up for work but remaining unproductive due to illness or distractions
  • An average 12% reduction in energy use

Also, worth noting: Decades of study documentation show the downside of every WELL Core Concept—Poor air quality, dehydration, poor lighting, noise distractions, etc.—having drastic effects on productivity and employee wellness.

Light is a Core Concept, so What is the Role of Lighting?

Lighting that aligns with the body’s circadian rhythms results in two important benefits.

First, natural light and artificial light that simulates it—such as Cool White fixtures with a color rating between 4000 and 5000K—help workers stay alert and productive throughout the day. A study by the World Green Building Council found that natural daylight increased worker productivity by 18%, while another study found workers on a “blue light” floor had significantly higher alertness levels later in the day than those on a control floor with no lighting changes.

Lighting even increases productivity and wellbeing by improving mental health. Between 5 and 10% of workers experience depression related to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but as little as 15 minutes of natural light exposure leads to the release of endorphins, countering the effects of dim winter light.

Second, natural light and simulated daylight throughout the workday result in better sleep, which results in greater physical and mental health across the board, increased productivity, better coping with stress, and higher worker morale and job satisfaction. Blue-white light suppresses the early release of sleep hormones, reducing the “afternoon dip” in productivity and keeping the body in natural circadian rhythm.


Pursuing a WELL Certification will help your employees and your bottom line, resulting in a profound return on investment.  Contact Thayer Energy Solutions today and we can discuss your needs and help you work toward your WELL Certification.