Ideas for Improving the Health and Wellness of Your Staff
(Originally Published in the September 2020 Issue of Global Traveler Magazine)
Creating a wellness environment in the workplace is a terrific idea, and many companies acknowledge the benefits of providing health and wellness programs to employees. However, the concept is anything but new. More than a century ago, Johnson & Johnson offered it’s New Jersey-based employees access to an on-site health center and a fitness center with a swimming pool and basketball court. In the 1970s, the company followed with the launch of Live for Life, an on-site wellness program with “access to behavior modification tools and education on topics like nutrition, stress management and more.”
Fast-forward to today, and wellness in the workplace provides its own business model. Last year the International WELL Building Institute, whose mission is to “lead the global movement to transform our buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive,” held its inaugural Workplace Wellness Leadership Summit, and the findings proved enlightening. Key takeaways from the summit included these elements: Environments play a pivotal role in shaping how we live and work; leadership must be involved in creating, supporting and maintaining a culture of health; and health and wellness programs cannot be developed with a one-size-fits-all mentality.
“Organizations are investing deeply in a culture of health and well-being, and not simply from an altruistic perspective but with the understanding that the health of a business is linked to the health and well-being of the people who work there,” said Rachel Gutter, IWBI president.
As companies grapple with work safety issues during a global pandemic, seeking ways to conduct business without exposing employees to the coronavirus, the IWBI developed the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management. This evidence-based, third-party verified rating for all facility types focuses on operational policies, maintenance protocols, emergency plans and stakeholder education to address a post-COVID-19 environment now and broader health- and safety-related issues in the future.
Antoinette Marie Johnson, founder and CEO, Cohere, a Philadelphia-based creative agency, fashioned an innovative workplace that not only features creative workspaces but also incorporates wellness. In addition to its weekly Lunch & Learn series for the team to participate in hands-on workshops, from composting to the chemistry of kombucha to making a natural facial scrub, Cohere offers daily meditation sessions and promotes initiatives to develop practices to better themselves and the communities they impact.
“Cohere’s belief is the more familiar our team is with creative and sustainable practices, the better we are equipped to bring these to our clients and generate impact in Philadelphia and beyond,” said Johnson. “It’s mindfulness, wellness and fostering creativity through programs that enliven our philosophies and show care for our Employees.”
Another aspect of wellness in the workplace is the actual design of the space, from the building itself to office settings. Laura Britt, founder of Britt Design Group, provides insight. Her clients include the University of Texas Longhorn Wellness Center, the Air Force Academy and her own company. The firm moved into its new 3,300-squarefoot office space late last year, specifically designed with health and wellness in mind and in accordance with the WELL Building Standard set forth by IWBI. WELL is the premier standard for buildings, interior spaces and communities seeking to implement, validate and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness.
When it comes to designing spaces, Britt and her team work a lot with biomimicry or “the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modeled on biological entities and processes.” Essentially, they take inspiration from nature.
Being connected with nature makes us feel good. That’s why we like to go to the mountains, we like to go to the beach, we like to hear water, to hear waterfalls. It impacts us in a positive way.Laura Britt, founder of Britt Design Group
When designing, the team tries to incorporate that connection to nature, to touch upon all the senses, especially sight and sound, including using natural light.
“We’re bringing in natural light and connecting to the outside,” she explained. “Anytime we can do that for office design, we certainly encourage it.” Other tips Britt shares with her clients: Incorporate small movements into their workdays, from installing sit-to-stand desks — giving employees options about how they work — to having employees walk to one centralized trash location rather than placing trashcans at everyone’s desk.
“Have them get up, think about what they’re throwing away and actually move to do so,” encouraged Britt. “We try and incorporate these little movements into our days. The trash can is a funny example, but it works.”
“I think it’s really important to pay attention to the design space, as well as to the health and wellness of employees,” explained Britt. “It’s the responsible thing to do, and it certainly impacts the bottom line. When we can reduce sick days, people being out of the office and disruption to workflow, and just help people feel better, it’s a positive impact in every regard.”