Does a WELL-Designed Office Boost Productivity?

The American Society of Interior Designers unveiled its new DC headquarters earlier this week, which is on its way to becoming the region’s first platinum-level WELL-certified building space. ASID’s CEO sees the sleek, thoughtful space as not only a place to do work but also to do research into the impact of design on productivity.

Most of us wouldn’t choose to live in a dimly lit, cluttered, and cramped cubicle that’s peppered with ugly and uncomfortable furniture, which by the way is down the hall from a smelly refrigerator, a nasty coffee maker, and a colleague, whose annoying laugh seems amplified by terrible acoustics. Am I right? So, if we wouldn’t live in a place like that, then why—when we’re spending an average of 8.9 hours a day at work—would we be jazzed to spend the majority of our waking hours in a place like that?

It’s a fair question.

And it’s a question that the American Society of Interior Designers takes to heart, especially because the group strives “to demonstrate and celebrate the power of design to positively change people’s lives.”

Selling ASID’s existing property and starting anew was a big decision. At an open house earlier this week, CEO Randy Fiser  said that the space was required “to push us into the future.” Sandy Gordon, ASID’s board chair, said that it was “time to walk the talk.”


ASID’s new digs on 15th Street in downtown Washington, DC, were executed by Perkins+Will, an award-winning international architecture and design firm, who kitted the ninth-floor suite with circadian lighting, conference-room carpet recycled from fishing nets, original artwork, and sit/stand workstations.

The space is on track to acquiring platinum-level certifications from both LEED, a certification focused on sustainability, and WELL, a newer certification administered by the International WELL Building Institute, that focuses on the role of a built environment on the health and well-being of its occupants. The WELL standard encompasses seven main principles: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.

Those principles are incorporated various ways. For instance, the “nourishment” category seeks to encourage healthy eating habits. ASID is fulfilling this by, in part, daily restocking a cache of communal fruits and vegetables and offering smaller cup and plate sizes in its sleek café or break room. (I could live in this café with its yellow tile backsplash, built-in appliances, and elegant kitchenware).

“Everything has a story,” Fiser said. “Everything in here has a purpose.”


Some of that purpose is to inspire creativity and productivity. In a survey, the Gensler architecture firm found that improvements in workplace environment could yield 20 percent increases in employee productivity. Yet, a recent Steelcase study reported that close to 90 percent of the world’s employees are less than satisfied with their work environments. This link between work environment and productivity is one that Fiser aims to study at ASID.

“That’s a very gutsy thing that ASID did is to say, ‘We’re going to measure—rigorously measure—and test our staff and their experiences and measure those things, and come into this new space and see what effect that had over time,’ which is fantastic,” said Ken Wilson, principal at Perkins+Will. “It’s really a living laboratory and an amazing research project.”

Is your office a place that inspires productivity? What do you think about the whole idea of WELL Building Standard? We’d love to hear. Please leave your comments below.


(handout photos)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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