Enhancing Workplace Health and Wellbeing: The Impact of WELL Certification in Facilities Management

November 23, 2023


WELL Certification is a global system that rates buildings based on how well they support the health and well-being of their inhabitants. It was developed by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) to evaluate the performance of buildings toward sustainability, health, and well-being. Although there are other certifications that influence this type of analysis, WELL Certification focuses exclusively on health and comfort.

Today, research shows that, on average, we spend about 90% of our time indoors. This highlights the importance of ensuring the quality of the spaces where we work. Doing so not only reduces the risk of diseases but also aligns with the World Health Organization’s call to safeguard the physical, mental, and social well-being of every individual.

This article sheds light on how WELL Certification contributes to the enhancement of workplace health and well-being.

1. Understanding WELL Certification

a. What is Well Certification?

WELL Certification, as mentioned earlier, is a system that rates how well buildings support the health and well-being of their inhabitants. It took seven years of research, working closely with health and academic experts, to develop WELL certification. It was then launched in partnership with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), which is also responsible for LEED Green Building certification.

This new sustainability approach puts people as its centerpiece. It gives owners and developers a way to create spaces that make people healthier and happier, as well as increase productivity and comfort based on periodic measurements.

b. The Seven WELL Concepts

WELL Certification looks at various aspects of the building environment through seven concepts:

i. Air

In workplaces, ensuring clean and fresh air is vital. Studies show that 52% of businesses have faced challenges due to insufficient ventilation (Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 1999). This means many spaces struggle to maintain a steady flow of clean air.

WELL Certification places a significant emphasis on achieving superior indoor air quality. This involves a range of strategies, including regular air quality testing and monitoring. It’s about ensuring that the air people breathe is not only free from harmful pollutants but also invigorating. Furthermore, WELL encourages efficient indoor air filtration and treatment processes. This means having systems in place to effectively remove impurities and maintain clean air.

Additionally, it stresses the importance of maintaining a minimum level of ventilation necessary for the health of users. This helps in ensuring that there’s a continuous flow of fresh air. It also advocates for controlling air humidity, which is vital for the comfort and well-being of occupants.

ii. Water

When it comes to water quality, it is important to understand that the primary concern is not just about the amount of water consumed but rather the quality of the water being consumed.

To meet WELL standards, it’s necessary to implement effective water filtration systems. This ensures that the water provided is not only accessible but also of high quality. Additionally, considerations include addressing the use of disinfection methods like chlorine, which can affect water quality. Other factors like managing bacteria and sediment levels, as well as monitoring the amount of dissolved minerals in the water (water hardness), are crucial aspects in meeting WELL Certification requirements.

iii. Nourishment

WELL Certification places a significant emphasis on promoting improved eating habits within the workplace environment. This involves a multifaceted approach that includes initiatives like cultivating food on-site. By having facilities for growing food within the enterprise, businesses can encourage a healthier approach to nutrition. This not only provides fresh and wholesome options but also promotes a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach to sourcing food.

It’s also about respecting dietary restrictions. By accommodating different dietary needs and preferences, businesses create an inclusive environment that supports the well-being of all occupants. Providing suitable places for storing and preparing food is also crucial. This ensures that employees have access to spaces where they can prepare and store their meals in a safe and hygienic manner.

Finally, establishing designated areas for hand hygiene within the enterprise is important for ensuring that employees have access to facilities that promote cleanliness and prevent the spread of germs.

iv. Light

Adequate lighting design plays a role in influencing not just visibility but also overall well-being. Properly sized openings and effective lighting control can significantly impact the circadian rhythm, which in turn affects the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. This can have a profound effect on users’ productivity and mood.

Enterprises aiming to meet WELL Certification standards must pay careful attention to various elements related to lighting. This includes ensuring access to natural lighting, which not only reduces energy consumption but also has a positive impact on mood and alertness.

Additionally, it involves implementing artificial lighting that is appropriate for the specific tasks being performed within the space. This ensures that occupants have adequate illumination for their activities. Lastly, managing color temperature is another aspect that impacts the overall visual comfort of the space.

v. Fitness

Achieving WELL Certification in the fitness category involves encouraging physical activity and integrating it into users’ daily lives within the enterprise. This is achieved through thoughtful design and planning.

One of the key requirements is the incorporation of activities into users’ daily routines. This can be facilitated by including features such as ergonomic stairs, which encourage movement and physical activity.

In addition, designing pleasant exterior spaces is crucial. These areas should be inviting and conducive to activities that promote fitness and well-being. Moreover, connecting the enterprise to local infrastructure, including cycle paths if possible, encourages alternative and active modes of transportation, further contributing to the overall fitness and well-being of occupants.

vi. Comfort

Comfort, as a key aspect of the WELL framework, encompasses a range of strategies that collectively contribute to the overall well-being and satisfaction of occupants.

Thermal comfort is one of the fundamental elements. It involves maintaining a comfortable temperature range within the space, ensuring that occupants neither feel too hot nor too cold. Acoustic considerations are equally important. This involves implementing measures to control noise levels and ensure a conducive auditory environment.

Ergonomic design principles are crucial in creating spaces that support the physical well-being of users. This includes the selection of furniture and equipment that are ergonomically designed to reduce physical strain and promote comfort. Additionally, olfactory considerations play a role in ensuring a pleasant and hygienic environment. This involves addressing factors related to odors and maintaining a fresh and clean atmosphere.

Accessibility and controllability of systems are also important aspects. Ensuring that occupants have easy access to essential amenities and that they have a degree of control over their environment contributes to their overall comfort and satisfaction.

vii. Mind

The Mind concept focuses on creating an environment that supports the mental and emotional well-being of the enterprise’s users.

To meet the requirements of this category, the enterprise must incorporate spaces that promote relaxation and provide opportunities for mental rejuvenation. These spaces serve as retreats for individuals to unwind and recharge, ultimately contributing to their overall well-being.

Furthermore, conducting satisfaction surveys among employees about the quality of the built environment is a valuable tool. This feedback allows for continuous improvement and ensures that the environment is meeting the needs and expectations of its users.

c. Benefits of WELL Certification

i. Employee Health and Well-being

Focusing on the health and well-being of employees is at the core of WELL Certification. By prioritizing elements like clean air, access to natural light, and ergonomic design, it creates an environment that supports physical, mental, and emotional wellness. This translates to healthier, happier, and more engaged employees. They experience reduced stress levels, improved sleep quality, and increased overall satisfaction with their work environment.

ii. Environmental Sustainability:

Beyond its impact on individuals, WELL Certification also champions environmental sustainability. It emphasizes resource efficiency, waste reduction, and energy conservation. By incorporating eco-friendly practices, WELL contributes to a greener, more sustainable workplace. This not only benefits the planet but also aligns with corporate social responsibility efforts.

iii. Attracting and Retaining Talent

 Implementing WELL Certification in a workspace is a powerful recruitment and retention tool. In a competitive job market, prospective employees are increasingly valuing workplace well-being. A WELL-certified environment signals a company’s commitment to the health and well-being of its employees. It sets a positive tone for the organizational culture, making it more appealing to potential hires. Furthermore, existing employees are more likely to stay with a company that invests in their well-being.

2. The Role of Facilities Management in WELL Certification

Moving on to the role of Facilities Management in WELL Certification, it’s crucial to understand their part in this process:

a. Facilities Manager Responsibility: Facilities Managers are required to ensure that the WELL Certification standards are not only met but also maintained. They oversee day-to-day operations, ensuring that the environment remains conducive to the well-being of all occupants. This involves proactive maintenance, prompt response to issues, and regular checks to guarantee that the established standards are upheld.

b. Collaboration Approach: An effective collaborative approach is vital. Facilities Managers work closely with architects, designers, and contractors from the early stages of a project. They provide crucial input on how to seamlessly integrate WELL principles into the building’s design and operations. This cooperative effort ensures that the facility is optimized for the health and well-being of its occupants.

c. WELL Certification and Building Design: Facilities Managers are instrumental in ensuring that the principles of WELL Certification are seamlessly integrated into the initial design and construction phases. They work in tandem with the design team to ensure that features promoting health and well-being are incorporated from the very beginning. This includes considerations like optimal air filtration systems, ergonomic layout, and access to natural light.

3. Impact on Employee Health and Productivity

Now, let’s explore how WELL Certification directly influences the health and productivity of employees:

a. Improved Indoor Air Quality

WELL Certification’s focus on air quality leads to a tangible improvement in indoor air. Clean air, free from harmful pollutants, reduces the risk of respiratory issues and allergies. This translates to fewer sick days, higher productivity, and overall better health among employees.

b. Enhanced Natural Lighting

Ample natural light has a profound effect on mood, alertness, and overall well-being. A WELL-certified space is designed to maximize access to natural light while minimizing dependence on artificial lighting. This not only reduces energy consumption but also creates a brighter, more uplifting atmosphere for employees to work in.

c. Ergonomic Workplace Design

WELL Certification emphasizes ergonomic design principles. This involves providing comfortable, adjustable furniture and equipment that support healthy posture and movement. By reducing physical strain and discomfort, employees experience greater comfort and are better equipped to focus on their tasks.

d. Promoting Physical Activities and Well-being

Designating spaces for physical activities encourages regular exercise and movement. This contributes to improved physical health, reduced stress levels, and overall well-being. Facilities that incorporate amenities like fitness areas or walking paths provide opportunities for employees to prioritize their health during the workday.

e. Case Studies and Real-World Examples

Case Studies: Impact of WELL Certification on Occupant Satisfaction and Perceived Health, Well-being, and Productivity.

A recent study in the Journal of Building and Environment reveals that WELL Certification brings about significant advantages in terms of occupant satisfaction, perceived health, well-being, and productivity. It looked at the effects of WELL Certification on occupants from four angles: well-being, physical and mental health, contentment with the workplace, and productivity. By examining extensive surveys before and after Certification, the study gauged how WELL Certification affected individuals compared to their experiences prior to Certification.

According to the survey findings, the Certification resulted in notable occupant benefits:

  • Overall workplace satisfaction rose from 42% to 70%.
  • A 2% increase in physical health and a 10% increase in mental health
  • Increase in reported well-being scores by 26%
  • Median productivity scores by 10-point

The research analyzed WELL Certification’s impact using over 1,300 survey responses collected before and after occupancy from six companies in North America. The analysis was done both collectively and at the company level.

Apart from elevating overall occupant well-being by 26%, the study found that WELL Certification also led to occupants feeling more invigorated, motivated to work, and confident in the workplace’s health-promoting attributes. There was also an increased sense of pride in being part of the organization.

The organizational-level analysis mirrored these findings. Every company in the study witnessed substantial improvements in overall occupant satisfaction. Specifically, all companies saw improvement in mental health, with one company seeing a remarkable 14% surge in its average perceived mental health score. Moreover, productivity scores increased significantly for all companies, ranging from 1.39% to as much as 6.72%. Finally, well-being scores saw notable increases across the board.

Real World Examples

WELL Certification recognizes buildings that prioritize the well-being of their occupants. Here are some examples of WELL Certified projects.

i. The Milliken Showroom, San Francisco (Platinum Certified)

San Francisco’s Milliken Flooring was among the first projects in North America to achieve Platinum certification in WELL v2. It serves as a living lab and design hub, featuring strategies like weekly yoga classes, enough space for natural light, top-notch air filters, and air quality monitoring with Kaiterra technology.

ii. Three Garden Road, Hong Kong (Platinum Certified)

Owned by Champion REIT, Three Garden Road made history in Hong Kong by becoming the first existing building to earn a prestigious WELL Platinum certification. This office complex, located in the bustling business district of Hong Kong, received its Certification in 2020. It’s a massive project, covering over 1,600,000 square feet. Noteworthy features include a serene garden space, healthy dining options, classical music concerts, and a fitness center

iii. International Towers, Australia (Platinum Certified)

Situated in the Barangaroo area of Australia, International Towers earned a Platinum certification as a WELL v1 Core & Shell project back in 2018. Comprising three towers, these buildings stretch from Sydney’s central business district to the waterfront. The project took a forward-thinking approach to creating a healthy workspace, incorporating key initiatives from all seven categories outlined by WELL.

These are just a few examples of how WELL Certification transforms buildings into healthier and more productive spaces. There are numerous other projects worldwide that have similarly embraced WELL principles.

4. Measuring Impact

To get a clear picture of how WELL Certification impacts workplaces, here are ways you can measure its effects:

a. Employee Surveys and Feedback

One of the primary methods for assessing the impact of WELL Certification is through direct feedback from employees. Regular surveys and open communication channels allow organizations to gain valuable insights into how the workplace environment is influencing their overall well-being. This includes factors like comfort, air quality, lighting, and overall satisfaction with the workspace. By actively listening to employee feedback, organizations can identify areas for improvement and make targeted adjustments.

b. Health Metric and Absenteeism

Keeping track of health metrics and monitoring absenteeism rates provides a tangible way to gauge the influence of WELL Certification on employee health. Improved health metrics, such as a reduction in sick days taken, fewer reported health issues, and an overall increase in well-being indicators, serve as clear indicators of the positive impact of a well-designed workspace. Reduced absenteeism reflects a healthier, more engaged workforce.

c. Productivity and Performance Metrics

Assessing productivity and performance data offers a concrete measure of the effectiveness of WELL Certification. This includes metrics like task completion rates, project timelines, and overall work output. A workspace designed with employee well-being in mind tends to foster higher levels of focus, concentration, and creativity, leading to increased productivity. By comparing performance metrics before and after the implementation of WELL Certification, organizations can quantify the direct benefits.

d. Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Metrics

WELL Certification extends beyond individual health benefits to encompass broader environmental sustainability. Monitoring energy consumption, waste reduction, and other sustainability metrics provides a comprehensive view of the positive environmental impact. Reduced energy usage and efficient resource management not only contribute to a healthier planet but also align with corporate social responsibility goals.

5. Challenges and Considerations

While WELL Certification offers substantial benefits, there are challenges and considerations to take into account:

a. Initial Cost and Investment

The initial cost of implementing WELL Certification may appear substantial, prompting some businesses to hesitate. However, it’s essential to recognize this as a strategic and long-term investment. Over time, the benefits far outweigh the initial costs. Organizations can expect substantial returns through reduced absenteeism, lower healthcare costs, increased productivity, and heightened employee engagement and satisfaction.

b. Retrofitting Existing Buildings

Adapting existing buildings to meet WELL Certification standards can be a significant undertaking. It involves a comprehensive assessment of the current infrastructure, followed by targeted modifications. This process requires careful planning and coordination to minimize disruption to ongoing operations. It is important to work with experienced professionals who specialize in retrofitting for WELL Certification.

c. Maintenance and Ongoing Commitment

Sustaining WELL Certification requires ongoing commitment from both management and facilities teams. Regular maintenance and monitoring are essential to ensure that the environment continues to support employee well-being effectively. This includes tasks like air quality testing, equipment maintenance, and periodic assessments of lighting and ergonomic features. An ongoing commitment to employee well-being is integral to maximizing the long-term benefits of WELL Certification.

d. Certification Levels and Requirements

Understanding the different levels of Certification and their specific requirements is key to a successful implementation. Each level (Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum) has distinct criteria that organizations must meet. It’s important to align the certification process with the unique needs and goals of the organization. This may involve prioritizing specific features or technologies based on the desired certification level.

6. Future Trends and Innovation

Looking ahead, there are exciting trends and innovations on the horizon for WELL Certification

a. Technological Advancements in WELL Certification

The integration of cutting-edge technologies promises to further enhance the impact of WELL Certification. Innovations in areas like air quality monitoring, lighting controls, and ergonomic design tools will play a crucial role in creating even more health-supportive workspaces. For example, advanced sensors can provide real-time data on air quality, allowing for immediate adjustments to optimize the environment.

b. Integration with Smart Facilities Management

The integration of WELL Certification with smart facilities management systems represents a significant leap forward. This synergy allows for real-time data monitoring, automated adjustments, and predictive analytics to continuously optimize the workspace for employee well-being. Smart systems can dynamically adjust lighting, temperature, and air quality based on occupancy and user preferences, creating an adaptive and responsive environment.

c. International Expansion and Adoption

The global recognition of the importance of workplace well-being is driving the international expansion and adoption of WELL Certification. This trend signifies a broader commitment to creating healthier, more productive work environments on a global scale. Organizations worldwide are recognizing the value of prioritizing employee well-being, and the adoption of WELL Certification is becoming a standard for progressive workplaces around the world.

Conclusion on the Impact of WELL Certification in Facilities Management

WELL Certification brings about a positive transformation in workplace health and well-being. It ensures that offices are not just functional spaces but environments that nurture the health and happiness of employees.

Additionally, facilities management plays a crucial role in maintaining these healthy workspaces. Their dedication ensures that all aspects of WELL Certification are upheld, from air quality to ergonomic design. It’s a collaborative effort that directly influences the well-being and productivity of the workforce.

Moving forward, it’s essential to encourage the broader adoption of WELL Certification. By spreading awareness and sharing success stories, we can inspire more organizations to invest in the well-being of their employees.

Reach out to us and embark on a journey towards smart and sustainable environments.

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