Back Health and Well-being to Center Everything in the Workplace
By Ann Marie Aguilar
At the International WELL Building Institute, a better understanding of the intersection of well-being and indoor environments motivates nearly all that we do. Today, many countries are in the midst of the arduous process of reopening in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns, and people are more aware than ever of how the buildings they occupy can affect their health and safety.
In a post pandemic world, people’s health and well-being will center every decision we make about our workplaces. A paradigm shift towards people-first places calls for reimagining the correlations between people and our spaces. And this rethinking needs to be multidimensional, serving as a roadmap for future-safe planning towards a global culture of health resilience.
In our recently published Prevention and Preparedness, Resilience and Recovery: An IWBI Special Report, we explored research approaches and specific operational strategies (as well as policy and investment considerations) as the world continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and prepares for acute health threats in the future. The report outlined how we’ve seen buildings benefit public health through history: “In the late 1800s, as tuberculosis was ravaging communities across the world—killing one in every seven people in the United States and Europe—doctors found an unexpected ally in the fight against the disease: architects. Medical professionals noticed that the health of TB patients was intimately connected to the environments that they were in. So, architects began designing sanatoriums with lots of light; clean, well-circulating air; and ready access to nature. In these spaces, people began to heal.”
One thing was clear in the breadth of the report and its findings: that bringing more designers, architects, commercial real estate firms, facility and human resource managers, and project owners to the table is key to creating healthier workplaces. Organizational leaders need to see the benefits to healthy buildings, and how they can show occupants -- and the public -- that they embrace initiatives to create and showcase them.