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How much do you know about the latest trend in office space: Healthy offices

Jan 10, 2017

1024px-Kuala_Lumpur_tilt-shift_4485053472-803805-edited.jpgThe jury is in: healthy, happy employees are productive employees.

And with staffing costs accounting for a huge portion of business budgets — 90% in most cases — smart business owners will make finding spaces that enhance worker happiness, and therefore productivity, a priority.

Measuring the office qualities that contribute to worker health and happiness has always been a challenge, however.

Many studies posture that green offices or “eco spaces” are better for employee health and happiness, lending to the boom in demand for these offices. Yet many commercial real estate brokers are looking for ways to go above and beyond to help clients promote employee health through healthy offices.

Luckily, agencies like Delos and the World Green Building Council are devoting research to the trend and seeking out ways for CRE professionals to better understand and promote healthy offices. Here, we’ll provide ways for you to get an edge on your competition and make your clients happier and healthier with the right office space.

What is a healthy office?

First, let’s define what makes a space “healthy.”

(Spoiler alert, you can’t just throw in a standing desk and call it a day.)

According to their report titled Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices, the World Green Building Council makes it clear that building design has a major impact on employee health, happiness and productivity.

Related: 11 Resources to Make You a More Interesting Broker

While this may seem obvious, many fail to realize that there is a huge difference between buildings that simply “aren’t bad” and buildings that intentionally incorporate features that promote health.

According to the report, the eight building design factors that impact the health and wellbeing of employees are:

  1. Indoor air quality & ventilation. A ventilation system that circulates, fresh, outdoor air is ideal for worker health because it renews oxygen and dilutes pollutants.
  2. Thermal comfort. While advances in sensor technology and radiative heat/cooling are making it easier for offices to manage office temperatures, this issue can be solved simply and efficiently by allowing staff to dress for the weather, rather than for a specific dress code.
  3. Daylight & lighting. Lighting levels for task areas should range from 300-500 lux. To reduce lighting costs, natural light should be maximized whenever possible. For those buildings that aren’t able to increase natural light, LED lights provide a useful alternative.
  4. Noise & acoustics. The traditional office typically relies on ambient noise (from ventilation systems, for example) to drown out distractions. But with the office of the future trending toward “hybrid” or task-specific spaces, modifications based on zone may become the new norm. For example, in a lively, collaborative zone, noise won’t be a concern. But in an area meant to foster focused solo work, white noise may still be necessary.
  5. Interior layout & active design. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for creating a healthy interior layout, buildings that encourage walking and taking the stairs tend to be a safe bet.
  6. Views & biophilia. An office with a view does more than denote status; long distance views allow workers to re-focus their eyes, preventing headaches and fatigue. Of course, not every office can magically conjure a scenic vista. In this case, cultivating biophilia by using natural design motifs and placing plants around the office is a must.
  7. Look & feel. Again, there is no template for getting the look and feel of a space right, but designers should think about the tasks being done in the space and structure offices with people in mind.
  8. Location & access to amenities. Choosing offices close to public transportation is the best way to discourage reliance on personal cars and encourage employees to walk and bike to work.

As a broker, you should have an idea of how the spaces you are showing clients rank for these factors.

Identifying the ideal “healthy” space for your clients

As the concept of healthy offices is still relatively new, your greatest challenge as a broker will be identifying offices that truly promote wellbeing. Fortunately, much like the LEED standard has helped brokers identify eco-friendly spaces, Delos is helping brokers identify healthy offices with their WELL Building Standard.

The WELL Building Standard identifies buildings that put people first by employing responsible design and construction practices, based on seven factors very similar to those identified by the World Green Building Council. This standard solves many of the measurement challenges that have plagued those in favor of healthy buildings by introducing a framework to quantify the human and financial impact of healthy initiatives.

Matching your clients with a WELL-certified space is a surefire way to meet their health and wellness needs.

Overcoming the challenge of availability

Similar to green buildings, the challenge in matching clients with healthy spaces will often be availability. Even if your clients want healthy spaces, issues like availability, as well as cost and location, may put their desires at odds with practical restraints.

As their broker, it’s up to you to help your clients find a healthy compromise. There’s much you can do to improve a space with relatively cost-effective upgrades. Consider advising your client to incorporate features such as:

  • LED lighting for improved office lighting
  • Plants to enhance biophilia
  • Standing desks to reduce time employees spend sitting
  • A healthy selection of snacks and drinks
  • Upgraded office climate controls
  • A bike rack to encourage employees to stay active
  • A shower so employees can incorporate fitness into their workday

As demand for healthy offices increases, building owners and developers will no doubt strive to catch up. But as a broker, you can help your clients make healthy building choices right now with the right information and a little creativity.

Next: 3 certifications that make a property more appealing
Nell Gable

Written by Nell Gable

Nell Gable is a freelance writer who specializes in creating compelling content for CRE companies and startups.

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