Let’s build healthy workplaces
Let’s make work life a healthy life
We’re expected to spend 90% of our lives indoors. Therefore the spaces in which we live, work and play have a profound impact on our mood, health and ultimately, our productivity. That’s why we’ve started a healthy building journey across the world that focuses on optimizing health and well-being through construction and design – a journey that is committed to not only helping people reach their full potential, but also boosts businesses and communities at large.
Office space or living room? While work in the past might have been something we do, today it’s increasingly turning into a place to be. For some companies, it’s even considered a lifestyle. And, with technology allowing us to work from pretty much anywhere nowadays, the lines between home and work have become significantly blurrier. Although we might be working more, we are also becoming sicker. Globally, an estimated 264 million people suffer from depression, one of the leading causes of disability, according to The World Health Organization.
As a result, higher demands are placed on employers, making employee wellness not only a top priority, but also a branding tool. However, it’s no coincidence. A 2018 report by the World Green Building Council looked at 11 office buildings around the world found that occupants working in buildings with green features had fewer days off and felt happier and more productive. There were financial benefits too. Research shows that if a healthy building can reduce turnover by 1 percent per year, this will save most professional companies $150,000 to $200,000 or more in finding, hiring, and training new employees. Imagine what we can achieve when our workspaces are human-centric and designed for us to succeed.
Trending: Workplace stress
Upon discussing healthy workplaces, it would only be fair to also bring up the topic of stress and burnout. The two have increased over time and, unfortunately become a more-than-common part of the modern human condition - perhaps so common that for many it’s a new-normal state of being. According to the World Health Organization, mental illnesses, which includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, is one of the fastest growing threats to global health. Let’s take a closer look at some of the numbers.
More people worldwide were stressed, worried and angry in 2018 than they’ve been at most points over the past decade (Gallup). This was particularly significant in the U.S., where a majority Americans (55%) said they had experienced stress during a lot of the day, nearly half said they felt worried a lot, and more than one in five said they felt angry often.
A new Korn Ferry survey, examining over 2,000 professionals from different organizational levels found that nearly two-thirds say their stress levels at work are higher than they were five years ago. More than three-quarters of the respondents, 76%, say stress at work has had a negative impact on their personal relationships, and 66% say they have lost sleep due to work stress. A small but significant number, 16%, say they’ve had to quit a job due to stress. Have we become so used to stress that we no longer question its consequences? The problem is worth pondering while we develop and design future workplaces that put human health at its center. The United Nations has included good health and well-being as one of their 17 goals to transform our world. It’s not just a goal, but a foundation for sustainable development moving forward.
It’s also worth noting that just because you’re not stressed, it doesn’t imply that you’re healthy. In fact, being healthy is not merely the absence of a disease, it is just as much about being in a complete positive state of physical, mental and social well-being (WHO). Therefore, a healthy working environment is not only an absence of harmful conditions, but just as much about an abundance of health-promoting ones. To help us comb through the facts and solutions, we sat down with CEO and slow activist, Trine Grönlund.
Health by design
While developing extensive employee wellness programs can be complex, and deeply connected to our individual choices and behaviors, there’s something to be said for healthy building and design - the kind that inherently invites us into a realm of well-being without us always necessarily being aware of it.
The WELL Building Standard and the FitWel Certification System are two of a handful of internationally recognized certifications that we work with to ensure that the spaces we build are putting health and wellness front and center. Marrying best practices in design and construction with evidence-based scientific research, these standards assess hundreds of building elements, such as light, air quality, and acoustics, but also interior aspects that invite physical activity and mental well-being.
Hear from a few people in the short film above what it’s like to work in two healthy offices we built: Klipporna and Epic, both located in Malmö, Sweden.
Bringing the outside in
As the world around has as changed, our connection to nature has decreased. Research shows that we de-stress, recharge and recoup better when spending time amongst elements of nature - the same goes for the indoors. That’s one reason why we use plants as interior details, or prefer a seat with a view. While most urban environments today can feel quite strile and bare, more and more architects and designers are exploring biophilia - the bond between humans and other living systems.
Upon creating Spark in Warsaw, the first to receive the WELL Core & Shell Certification in Poland, biophilia was largely incorporated into its design. One example is the prominently placed, green-clad stairs by the entrance, making them the most obvious, attractive and healthy choice.
Happy Earth. Healthy life.
Research shows that 71 percent feel healthier in a workplace that supports their physical activity, and 12 percent on average are more productive. While a green and welcoming staircase is one way of promoting more daily movement, incorporating a bicycle hotel is another.
On the ground floor of Epic in Malmö, Sweden, tenants have the possibility to park their bikes in one of the 120 bikeslots, as well as take a shower in the adjacent lockerrooms with its complimentary towel service. Biking or walking to work doesn’t only minimize the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, it also lessens our carbon footprint. Simply put: a win-win for you and Mother Nature.