How China’s workplaces can help us live longer

February 19, 2016 / By  

As we settle back into the office after celebrating the Lunar New Year, it’s time for us to think more seriously about the year ahead. In China, none of us want to return to more bad news on the polluted air and the harm that it is doing to our health.

So, what if I told you that this Year of the Monkey could be the year that you start breathing better and living longer – even with bad air days looming over the course of the year? According to new research from the creators of RESET – the first industry certification standard to focus on the impact of air quality on human health – locating yourself in a workplace that is properly equipped to manage the bad air in China can actually help you get your life back – days of it, in fact.

Following air quality improvements in their offices, employees from the top-ranked offices in Shanghai gained on average 5.6 days of life in 2015. The results from indoor air quality specialist GIGA are the first-ever attempt to quantify the health effects of good indoor air on people’s lives in China, in terms of days of life. Employees at Lend Lease were the biggest winners, gaining on average 6.3 days of life last year. Based on annualised projections for buildings not tracked for the full year, Haworth did even better at 6.7 days.The calculations were made using real-time continuous data from RESET-certified spaces and an algorithm incorporating medical research out of Beijing that correlates the impact of PM2.5 (particulate matter sized 2.5 microns or smaller) on human health. The chart below shows the top 5 workplaces listed by GIGA.

Chart: Top 5 Office Spaces in Shanghai (in terms of indoor air quality)
Picture2_19Feb2016.jpgNote: Annualised Total for Partial Years refers to projected gains over 2015 for qualified offices which
were not operational or 
tracked for the full 12 months of the year.
Source: GIGA

Rankings for Beijing have yet to be released, but GIGA confirms that employees at the top offices in the capital gained roughly 50 percent more days of life over their Shanghai peers in 2015 due to heavier air pollution in Beijing. This led some employees in Beijing to gain on average 10 days of life last year. The results are more significant when measured over a working lifetime: employees from the best offices in Shanghai and Beijing could be looking at respective gains of on average 196 to 350 days of life – or roughly half to nearly a full year – over the span of a 35-year career.

Due to heightened awareness on air pollution in China, office workers are becoming increasingly selective about where they work. Reuters reported[1] that some people are even considering employment at offices with good indoor air quality over opportunities to earn larger salaries. A new Harvard study[2] also demonstrates that good air can facilitate nearly twice the level of employee productivity for analytically challenging tasks, providing employers with strong incentives to ensure quality air in the workplace. Similarly, landlords of buildings with good air are more likely to see higher tenancy and greater market resiliency.

JLL spent the better part of 2015 conducting spot tests at more than 150 office buildings in Beijing and found that an overwhelming 90 percent of office buildings in Beijing did not show a meaningful reduction in PM2.5 from outside levels. To help landlords and tenants reduce the amount of PM2.5 that enters office buildings, JLL and indoor environmental consultancy PureLiving China published a white paper discussing at length the remedies available in the market. Download Every breath we take: transforming the health of China’s office space to learn how to make the most of the year ahead – and stay tuned for the Chinese version report coming soon.

 [1] More than money: Employees in China demand cleaner office air. Reuters. December 2015. (
[2] Allen, Joseph G., MacNaughton, Piers, Satish, Usha, Santanam, Suresh, Vallarino, Jose, and Spengler, John D. Associations of Cognitive Function Scores with Carbon Dioxide, Ventilation, and Volatile Organic Compound Exposures in Office Workers: A Controlled Exposure Study of Green and Conventional Office Environments. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and Syracuse University. October 26, 2015. Environmental Health Perspectives. (

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