Designing Healthy Workspaces with WELL

Workplace wellness can be a heavy lift for companies everywhere. In addition to the initial investment, companies must ensure employee participation and effectiveness to attain the desired outcomes. Yet 70% of healthcare costs in America are affected by the environments in which people live and work. So dropping these programs entirely isn’t a financially or socially viable option, either.

That’s why the launch of the WELL Building Standard has seen tremendous success with companies and organizations across the globe. WELL is the leading tool for strategies designed to advance health and well-being in buildings globally. From active design elements that promote movement throughout the day, to circadian lighting systems designed to help energize people during the day and support their sleep at night, WELL comprises both policies and design features to redefine health in the workplace.

At its core, WELL doesn’t require behavioral change—at least not at first. Through changes to employees’ circumstances, healthy decisions become easier and more appealing to choose while unhealthy decisions are inhibited. Just by going to work, employees find themselves in environments designed to help support their cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, and cognitive health. WELL Certified spaces are designed to support preventative medical intentions broadly and unobtrusively.

For companies, investing in people and helping to improve their physical and mental health are basic economics. Approximately 90% of corporate expenses are tied to salary and benefits, which means the return on investment from healthier and happier employees can lead to cost savings. In addition to reduced absenteeism, productivity rates correlate with improved financial performance and health outcomes.[1] That’s why employers have demonstrated interest in changing workplace environments and cultures to encourage healthier behaviors, and are starting to recognize the physical environment as an avenue to a healthy workplace culture.

With over 100 million square feet of WELL projects registered across the globe, building and design elements have become a proven intervention in advancing employee health and wellness. WELL helped SCENEO office space in France recognize the value add in incorporating elements of nature, connecting employees to the outdoors to help reduce stress. SCENEO implemented a unique local garden, and by positioning the dining facilities on the top floor, it transformed an eating space into what SCENEO’s project lead Virginie Scaglia called “escape that offers breathtaking views of the Paris landscape.”

And for many, workplace wellness extends even beyond the office. Martha McInnis, TD Bank Group design director, was a driver behind TD’s Toronto HQ WELL Certification. “It’s been really interesting to watch our employees benefit from their new space and embrace a culture that prioritizes health and wellness,” McInnis said. “WELL Certification has inspired our employees to live their wellness values and to go beyond the physical features of their workspace by participating in health fairs and organizing initiatives like fruit and veggie Wednesdays and walk-and-talk meetings.”

Consider the societal shift that could occur in the healthcare paradigm by harnessing office spaces as vehicles to encourage positive change in employee behavior. Through healthy building practices outlined by WELL, companies have a unique opportunity to implement designs intended to advance public health outcomes and employee engagement—redefining what a workplace wellness program can encompass.

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[1] Willis Towers Watson. “Employee Health and Business Success” (2016).


Scialla, Paul
CEO, Delos