What is a Chief Wellbeing Officer? (CWO)

Office building design and maintenance is more vital to health, wellbeing and productivity, the most business CEO’s care to notice.

Studies show us that poor air quality and inferior lighting increase sick days and can affect sleep but the evidence is not influencing most design architects, property leasing, and office environment equipment maintenance decisions

The relationship between operatives and the office in which they work is key for health, wellbeing and pro-activity.

The majority of businesses are missing a trick in ignoring the enormous opportunity this relationship presents.

Salaries and benefits traditionally account for 90% of businesses’ operating costs, far greater than energy (1%) and even rent (9%). The productivity of staff, or anything that affects their ability to be productive should be a major concern for any employer, and therefore the building in which they operate, should be a major concern as it directly affects staff that are controlling the business!

For architects and designers, the concept that buildings influence the health, wellbeing and productivity of their occupants is nothing new. But this type of thinking is still not influencing most design, and or continuing equipment maintenance.

Recently, the World Green Building Council convened 60 experts from 40 businesses and academic institutions, across 20 countries, to address this issue and educate and bring the working environment issue into the mainstream consciousness.

They looked at compelling evidence that demonstrates the physical work environment has a significant impact on the wellbeing, productivity of the office worker, and therefore cost to the business.

It’s important to remember when we are talking about health and wellness they are two different scientific twigs of the same branch. Health referring to our mental and physical state and wellbeing is more connected with how we feel and our state of happiness driven by the meta-physical conditions that affect what we do and how well we can manage our output in business.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) often catastrophically overlooked, not just in office environments but in Hotels too, can have major implications on output, Not forgetting thermal comfort from A C units, high quality views, daylight, good acoustics and indeed location and amenities – all play a crucial role in creating a healthy, productive workplace.

Studies about Air con  in offices found that poor air quality lowered performance by up to 10% on measures such as typing speed and units output. Short term sick leave has also been found to be 35% lower in offices ventilated with greater supply rates of healthy air.

On thermal comfort, research indicated a 10% reduction in performance at both 30C and 15C, compared with a baseline between 21C and 23C.

And in terms of lighting, one study, which investigated the relationship between view quality, daylight absorption and sick leave of employees in administration offices of Silom area of Bangkok, found those in offices with better daylight and views took 6.5% fewer sick days.

Neuroscientists have noted that workers with offices that have windows receive 173% more daylight exposure during work hours and sleep an average of 46 minutes more per night.

They also noted that sleeping with windows open found that it helped many cases of people who struggled to wake up each day. White light or daylight hours are vital for our wellbeing, and for your staff getting in on time.

At some forward thinking companies they have given individual control over the air conditioning and this made staff happier and actually saving money on energy bills.

This is only half of the story. No matter how convincing the evidence, it will only make a difference when organisations can make their own business case. .

It may surprise many business people if they were to take a staff happiness survey and ask the questions that really matter, about staff morale and comfort at work.

The case for anonymity within a survey is very much a question for the level of communication between team leaders and operatives.

The crux of the matter boils down to information about the building itself, and how it is performing. Some of these are very direct measures (lighting, temperature, air quality) and others will be evaluations or assessments (quality of views, local amenities). Much research can be done in house; some require more expert support – although this is changing as technology puts power in the hands of occupiers themselves.

Managing this information is relatively straight forward but a different way of thinking is needed. Facilities managers (FMs), per se, are likely to have a wealth of data about the building and its facilities; HR departments are already in possession of data about worker’s morale and absenteeism; and the finance director will be well aware of revenue and related financial metrics.

Many organisations are sitting on a treasure trove of information that, with a little work and digging, could yield important and swift improvement strategies for their two biggest assets – their people and working environments, and the relationship between the two.

This is an opportunity for organisations to think differently and use their physical premises for competitive gain, whether that’s an investor trying to command a higher dividend  for a high-performing building or an occupier looking to move to an office better suited to drive business success.

We all have a role to play in helping F.Ms, H.R. departments and finance directors to start working together to create a business strategy that maximises the value of the workplace for employee health, boosting organisational performance whilst minimising impact on the planet.

With “wellbeing” now something every potential and existing employer sees as a natural expected benefit as opposed to an extra reason to work for any company –  – how long will it be  before we see a new addition to the c-suite? Do you think we will soon start to see advertisements for a chief wellbeing officer?

If you would like the air quality in your office checked and have an assessment of energy levels in your place of work or your Hotel; call EASS

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