Monday 7 December 2015

A Health and Productivity Perspective

Amanda Schneider

As healthcare costs skyrocket, wellness and wellbeing are becoming increasingly relevant topics to employers everywhere. Workplace strategists continue to explore how to build, from the roots of the organization, the healthiest communities possible. To gain insight, we can look to the successful implementation policies around us to search for an equation for success. Employers know that keeping employees healthy is good for workers and for the profitability of the business. However, most employers do not know precisely how to create a healthy workplace or healthy workforce. 
What causes success on a larger scale? Professor Bill Aulet once stated, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast, operational excellence for lunch, and everything else for dinner." To attain a healthy workplace, we must first employ the techniques to achieve a healthy culture. Ron Goetz, of the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies at Johns Hopkins University applies these teachings to the development of healthy workplace environments, "the strongest workplace wellness programs are building a culture of health that interweaves individual health needs with the overall company goals, and are backed by senior leadership."
A solid foundation means building the workplace to meet the functional needs of a work place. Bernice Boucher, Managing Director-Americas of JLL's Workplace Solutions team has a "Crimes Against Productivity" Top 3 list. The list is meant to tackle the top three obstacles to productivity, contending that without an environment to host successful productivity, employees can't begin to entertain a culture of health.

 The "Top 3" are:

  • "It's too hot." or "It's too cold."
  • "I can't find a meeting room."
  • "I don't have the quiet or privacy to get my job done."
Designers are often given a program and a list of aspirations and expectations at the outset of a project. But the base demands must be fulfilled first -- combating Boucher's list of "Crimes Against Productivity." Only then we can encourage, promote, and explore the opportunities already being tested by some of the most in-demand employers in the country: gyms for fitness, yoga and nap rooms for quiet and meditation, laundry service and daycare for work-life balance. 
The Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS) and the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies (IHPS) at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health partnered to release an 'evidence-based workplace health promotion guide for employers' -- a cheat sheet to implement the right health agenda in each office. The guide highlights five workplace wellness program best practices:

  • Administer a baseline survey
  • Identify a senior leader who will support and participate
  • Make bold choices to implement changes
  • Implement smart incentives
  • Dedicate communication
A recent Gensler study builds on this, outlining key planning strategies when designing a healthy workplace environments: 

  • Make workers more active
  • Provide easy access to water and healthy snacks
  • Design for healthy air quality
  • Bring nature into the office
  • Consider the sensory environment
  • Provide lighting which responds to the circadian rhythms 
  • Design for ergonomic needs
  • Control your density (square feet per worker)
  • "Nudge": indicate areas that promote health with branding or signage
Successful workplace design takes the background, ethos, and vision of a company and turns it into physical spaces where employees spend a significant portion of their lives. The conversation on designing for wellness in workspace continues to evolve. There is inspiration at all stops along the road -- from clients, friends and coworkers and experiences in our own lives. This exploration process is, in itself, a healthy exercise. As more thought is focused on spaces that drive healthy behaviours, we can perpetuate our own culture of health.

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