Work + Well

By Kirstin Weikert

Last year, we published our Insights on the concept of wellbeing in the workplace and why the subject is trending. PDR shared our belief that companies are coming to the realization that people are their greatest asset. Keeping workers healthy and happy are not only interrelated, but relevant to the success of any business. We see all businesses, regardless of industry or sector, confronted with the changing nature of work and workers and recognize wellbeing as one of the ten Universal Business Challenges facing business leaders today.

Some of the questions I hear from business leaders relate to the difference between wellness and wellbeing, the new WELL Building Standard, and how it compares to LEED, the internationally known green building rating system developed by the US Green Building Council. Here I will share my responses and recommend strategies to implement wellbeing in any workplace.

Recent findings suggest that formal wellness programs as they exist today are missing the mark. Based on one study conducted by the RAND Corporation which focused on U.S. Workplace Wellness, it is estimated that only 20% of eligible employees take part in employer provided programs. Organizations such as Delos, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), and the Center for Active Design, are advocating that the indoor environment can enhance human health and help prevent chronic health problems before they begin. As a designer, I am a firm believer that our surroundings impact our experiences. I think it is smart that these organizations are focusing on wellbeing as a function of workplace design.

Wellbeing is sustaining a healthy physical and mental state over time, in a supportive material and social environment.
— Steelcase 360: Wellbeing, A Bottom Line Issue

How does WELL work?
Pioneered by Delos, the WELL Building Standard is the first program to evaluate a space or building based solely on its ability to promote the health and wellbeing of the occupants. When WELL debuted in 2014, we got excited that there would be an international standard, rooted in medicine and science, which outlined the key elements that promote a healthy workplace. While LEED certification remains the dominant tool to evaluate a building’s impact on the environment, pursuing WELL certification places emphasis completely on the people inhabiting the space. The WELL Building Standard sets performance requirements in seven categories relevant to occupant health - Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind. A WELL certified space should minimize disruption to the body’s circadian rhythm to improve sleep patterns, support nutrition, improve mental focus, and integrate movement and exercise throughout the day.

As the WELL Building Standard officially rolled out in 2015, PDR conducted a comprehensive investigation to see how it would impact our own work environment  Our research allowed us to develop a process for pursuing WELL, feasibility tools, and a working knowledge of the rating system, including potential hurdles. Three key differences between LEED and WELL are: 1) WELL touches upon corporate policies which requires greater leadership commitment and places HR at the decision table; 2) WELL certification requires a post-occupancy performance verification by an assessor to ensure the space or building performs as intended; and 3) the majority of the WELL standard introduces entirely new protocols in workplace design.

How can you implement wellbeing in your workplace?
Businesses can implement new workplace strategies to enhance wellbeing. The discovery process can start by evaluating a workplace culture, environment and policies to determine if they encourage physical activity, mental restoration, and social connections. To support wellbeing, businesses should begin building a strategy for their next workplace or update their current workplace. Attention focused towards the workers, in addition to the workplace, will improve individual wellbeing and the corporate bottom line.

Kirstin Weikert

Kirstin Weikert is one of the nation’s 1st provisional WELL Accredited Professionals and a Registered Interior Designer. She takes pride in creating workplace solutions where business and design meet on the individual level. She has the expertise and passion needed to guide a project team through the WELL Building Standard certification process.