WELL Building Standard and How It Improves Your Mental Health

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Mental health image. Various emotion and maind. Waste paper and head silhouette.

Many workplaces have been negatively affecting their employees’ mental health. And with Covid-19 around, mental health will stay in the spotlight for a while. Research has shown that buildings have an impact on one’s mental health. Thankfully, the WELL building standard is there for workplaces to influence mental health positively.

We cannot ignore the fact that we mostly spend our lives inside buildings. We spend around 90% of our lives indoors, working 8 to 10 hours a day, five days a week. And during this pandemic, it’s probably more now – like 99.9% of our time. And while the spaces we inhabit are mostly our homes, these spaces and even buildings can significantly impact our health. They can affect our well-being and our productivity at work.

Fortunately, the WELL building standard makes our well-being the center of construction decisions and design. It aims to create more productive spaces for employees while improving the quality of buildings. After all, these are where we spend most of our time.

WELL building standard and how it works

The WELL building standard is a vessel for organizations to deliver intentional and thoughtful spaces that help enhance well-being and human health. With the help of scientific research, it includes strategies to advance health by setting performance standards for operational protocols, design interventions, and policies. It also commits to promote a culture of wellness and health.

It has two versions, v1 and v2, although many organizations now are following the latter. Following the foundation of the first version, v2 draws expertise from WELL users, medical professionals, practitioners, building scientists, and public health experts all over the world.

WELL v1 and WELL v2

The goal of WELL v1 is to look at the seven areas that could affect their health in a building. These include the following:

  • Air
  • Comfort
  • Fitness
  • Light
  • Mind
  • Nourishment
  • Water

Meanwhile, WELL v2 spans 110 features in ten concepts. These concepts include the following:

  • Air
  • Community
  • Light
  • Materials
  • Mind
  • Movement
  • Nourishment
  • Sound
  • Thermal comfort
  • Water

Both these versions are valuable to organizations. It just depends on the owner’s project aspirations on which version to follow. Any project that follows the WELL certification can earn points depending on their performance outcomes for different policies, operational strategies, and design. 

WELL standard and medical knowledge

The WELL building standard measures the attributes of establishments or buildings that could affect health by looking at 7 or 10 factors. One of these factors is nourishment, which encourages healthy eating habits. It means that occupants have access to healthier food choices and know about the nutrient quality.

Architects have nothing to do with the occupants’ nutrition, but it greatly affects their health. As part of WELL, the designers must get in touch with catering consultants in negotiating healthier options. 

WELL v1 also covers fitness, and its requirements include opportunities for physical activities. Therefore, the designers should encourage occupants to move through the building and discourage them from just sitting at their desks for long periods. The stairs should be attractive enough to motivate people to use them. 

Ultimately, WELL encourages healthy behavior, which requires the changes in the environmental cues that the designers provide for occupants. Also, it ensures interaction between the facilities managers and the HR departments. So, instead of waiting for users to complain, it’s about coordinating with them to prevent negative things from happening. It’s also about engaging with the employees. 

Through research, we have learned that the elements like lighting can affect circadian rhythm. Through research, we have found out that air quality affects how employees feel in the workplace.

WELL criteria infuse medical knowledge with the environment to set design solutions to help ensure a healthier workplace.

How does the WELL building standard improve mental health?

The features of the WELL building standard provide opportunities for buildings to improve one’s mental health. There may be features that will require the help of the HR department and other departments. However, there are some that the facilities team and designers can do on their own. Check out this list below to see how WELL standard can support mental health:

Active furnishings

In feature V07, aside from ergonomic furniture, WELL also supports the use of furniture that discourages prolonged sitting and inactive behaviors. Both work-from-home and office-based setups should use this kind of furniture.

Employees should be able to find active furnishings for their homes. They should also be available in the office when it’s time to go back. Employees should be able to stretch and move around. It’s an important tool to fight against chronic stress.

Enhanced occupant surveys

In Feature C04, organizations should reach out to their employees to ask them what they need. Knowing what they need help with can direct their efforts efficiently.

Opportunities for physical activities

Feature V06 says that when designers curate amenities, they should look for ways to encourage physical activity. They can convert spaces into yoga classes and promote the use of stress relief apps.

Physical and visual ergonomics

In feature V02, WELL supports movement and comfort, even when people are just working from home. It means that during the work-from-home phase, employees have access to ergonomic furniture as much as possible. Also, office furnishings should help reduce injury and physical strain when people need to return to the office.

It’s important to feel comfortable while working. After all, being comfortable helps reduce stress to fight burnout.

Preparing for emergencies

Feature C15 states that organizational resilience can benefit individual health. That’s because people believe that the organization can handle emergencies. It also says that the designers should make emergencies resemble snow days. Just like snow days, emergencies aren’t threatening. There’s a plan to handle them, and the organization should know how to execute the plan.

These are how the WELL building standard can be used to help improve your mental health. But whatever strategy your organization chooses, remember that mental health approaches cannot be one size fits all. So, the steps one company follows may not work for others.

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