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22 March 2019
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11 September 2017 | FM World team


Several recent studies have suggested that the design of offices is instrumental to how well those who work in them feel. How much say does FM really have in providing healthier workplaces?

Joanna Frank

Fitwel shows the way ahead

Now, more than ever, industry leaders are recognising the value proposition for providing healthier workplaces for their employees and tenants. Building owners and facilities managers are leveraging Fitwel, a high-impact and cost-effective building certification system as a tool to integrate design and operational strategies within workplaces to impact health. Many of the operational strategies are directly impacted by the input and guidance of FMs, including pest management control, emergency procedures, and indoor air quality. In 2015, Fitwel was piloted in 89 buildings across the US, and results showed that 84 per cent of employees have a better understanding of how their workplaces support healthy behaviours. Since Fitwel’s public launch in March 2017, FMs have been critical in bringing market transformation to the building industry in using Fitwel to promote occupant health.

Joanna Frank, president & CEO of Center for Active Design

Victoria Lockhart

Optimising productivity and performance

At IWBI we believe the modern workplace is about empowering people to make better-informed decisions on their health. The WELL Building Standard™ (WELL™) is one such approach, translating research into practice to enable public health and positive behaviour change interventions to be ‘built into’ building design, operations and organisational policies. 

Evidence has shown that our buildings and communities not only have a significant impact on our health, but they can also influence our health-related behaviours. WELL was launched to shift the approach from healthcare to health by delivering preventive health intentions into our spaces, broadly and unobtrusively. Research tells us that 70 per cent of healthcare outcomes are affected by the places where we live, work, play and learn. The features incorporated into office design can directly impact how active we are, whether we smoke, and what we eat each day. 

Employees are in environments designed to help support their cardiovascular, respiratory health, immune and cognitive health. Facility managers can also provide employees with the ability to customise elements of their workplace – such as temperature, light or sound – thereby leading to more comfortable, distraction-free work environments. And when employers invest in people and optimise their workplaces and cultures to encourage healthier behaviours, they are indirectly optimising employee productivity and performance across their entire employee population. 

Victoria Lockhart, global business development team, International WELL Building Institute 

Debra Ward

Offices shape our experiences 

Never before has the role of facilities management been so closely linked with business operations.

As an increasing number of the world’s most forward-thinking companies use their corporate real estate as a tool to improve the engagement of their staff, facilities managers are having a more significant say in providing a healthier workplace.

One of the key findings in JLL’s new research, Workplace, powered by Human Experience, was that there is clear employee appetite for health and well-being space, which the data shows has the highest potential impact on employee productivity. The survey showed that space for concentration (47 per cent), regeneration (40 per cent) and to move (39 per cent) were most in demand, however, only half of the respondents globally say workspace provided by their company allows them to work completely effectively. This means there’s significant room for improvement. And much of this is the responsibility of facilities management teams – from ensuring that lighting levels in an office don’t place undue strain on an occupant’s eyes to actively selecting the paintwork so it doesn’t induce headaches in staff  and providing healthy workspaces and tackling ‘sick building syndrome’.

FMs should also consider that a healthy workplace is not just about physical health, it is also about mental health. Offices shape our experiences at work because well-designed spaces allow us to work effectively, boost creativity and innovation and, ultimately, drive happiness at work. So whether this means ensuring that workplaces are not too dense, or that employees have a choice of spaces in which to work, by creating workplaces that are healthy, facilities managers are actually playing a crucial role in the day-to-day operations of a company. Ultimately, healthy, busy and productive staff means a healthy, busy and productive business.

Debra Ward, strategy & growth EMEA, JLL Corporate Solutions

Sophy Moffat 

The FM’s role must be reshaped

Uptake of WELL, Fitwel and the WGBC’s Better Places for People framework are all accelerating. Pioneering occupiers are striving to identify tangible links between the workplace and staff well-being. Many companies are looking to data not previously investigated; metrics – like absenteeism, productivity, and employee happiness – which, when linked back to the indoor space, expose the impact of the physical environment on staff well-being. And, in turn, bottom-line performance.

The delivery of smart buildings will drive this forward, with systems and data exposing the relationship between ‘where we are’ and ‘how we are’ like never before. This will push facilities managers to create better places.

At present, the FM has seriously limited capabilities when it comes to implementing well-being. The traditional remit of their role and the lack of data available – particularly human resources data – make it impossible to really ‘know’ their occupiers. This limits opportunities to gauge and enhance well-being.

For a workplace to be truly ‘well’ the role of the FM must be reshaped. The workplace should be managed, monitored and fine-tuned by one team – and this team should enhance– perhaps supersede – both HR and FM roles.

In the future we will see an amalgamation of HR and FM roles embodied in ‘community curation’ and ‘well-being’ departments. Designed to manage, monitor and fine-tune the office environment, these teams will be tasked with optimising the experience of the user. We are already seeing the emergence of community managers, well-being and future-proofing specialists. Albeit on a select basis, this is a sign of things to come.

 How much say does FM have in providing healthier workplaces? Right now, not enough.

Sophy Moffat, EMEA research & insight, Cushman & Wakefield, author of the Well Workplace Report

Survey Results

Recent studies have suggested that the design of offices is instrumental to how well those who work in them feel. Researchers from Imperial College London, working with design, engineering and project management consultancy Atkins, found that increasing access to daylight, providing higher quality artificial lighting or introducing technology to allow individuals more control of the temperature in their immediate space results in a more productive workplace. A Cushman & Wakefield report suggests that if corporates do not focus on creating workplaces designed to nurture the health and well-being of occupants from the get-go, they risk losing out commercially. Nascent standards like WELL and Fitwel are seeking to do this in a fast developing market. Our question was – does this level of interest match your own experience?