Can my workplace improve my health and wellbeing? Absolutely.
“Healthy employees mean healthy companies,” begins the Discovery Healthy Company Index Report which presents survey findings of employee wellness within 151 South African companies. “Employers have a unique opportunity to improve the lives of employees and their families by measuring, managing, and improving employee health.” Employee wellness programmes are steadily growing globally as a top priority for leading organizations, but according to green building consultant Michelle Ludwig of Ludwig Design Consulting, “there is still more that can be done.”
The wellness trend is evolving into a focus on wellbeing in the workplace, which goes beyond ergonomics to encompass cognitive and emotional aspects of being healthy. “The design of built environment space itself can contribute to supporting physical and mental health,” according Ludwig. “The past decade has seen a groundswell number of research studies on the impacts of our workspace to health so it is no longer anecdotal; the best practice design concepts now have tangible benefits that can be quantified.”
For employers, more than 90 percent of a company’s expenditure is the employees inside of the building. Investing in the health of employees has the potential to yield a valuable return on investment—including increased employee productivity and satisfaction, stronger corporate responsibility effort and a reduction in turnover and absenteeism. With 90% of our time spent indoors and 36% of our day spent at work, it becomes imperative for employers to consider aspects of wellbeing when planning or constructing a workplace.
Ludwig points out the recently introduced WELL Building Standard® (WELL) is one such tool that can help the design process by providing a framework of interventions which contribute to a healthier workspace that supports employee health. At minimum, the standard provides a useful checklist of potential strategies to incorporate within any new building, renovation or interior fit-out commercial project. It addresses issues such as air and water quality, lighting, fitness, comfort, biophilia and healthy food. Upon successful implementation, projects can pursue certification that has global recognition. Notable aspects include:
– The first standard of its kind that focuses solely on the health and wellness of building occupants.
– The WELL Building Standard marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based health and wellness interventions
– Identifies 100 performance metrics, design strategies, and policies that can be implemented by the owners, designers, engineers, contractors, users and operators of a building.
– WELL is based on a thorough review of the existing research on the effects of spaces on individuals and has been advanced through a thorough scientific and technical review.
– WELL Certified™ spaces and developments can lead to a built environment that helps to improve the mood, sleep, comfort, nutrition, fitness, and performance of its occupants.
Already going for a green building? The WELL Building Standard shares some objectives with other green building rating tools, such as Green Star and LEED, and should be pursued in addition. While these green building tools primarily address building performance and conservation of resources, WELL provides an additional foci on broader opportunities to support occupant health. Because of their shared intentions, attainment of Green Star credits can help achieve certain WELL features and vice versa.
Ludwig Design Consulting, an experienced green building consulting firm, is focusing on this revolutionary new tool for clients in South Africa. Please make contact for more information on how to incorporate these concepts into your projects or to pursue WELL certification.
Other green building consulting experience and services include Green Star, LEED™, and EDGE tool, as well as education and training seminars on green design topics.
Michelle Ludwig is director and senior green building consultant at Ludwig Design Consulting. Her 20 years of experience in sustainable architecture and green rating systems was acquired with the international firms HOK and William McDonough + Partners, and locally with PJCarew Consulting. Focused on facilitating green building design in Southern Africa, she consults with multiple green rating tools (Green Star, LEED, WELL), has delivered several Green Star certifed projects, regularly contributes technical expertise to GBCSA initiatives, and teaches green educational seminars.