By Special to The Nation
The recent air pollution in Bangkok has highlighted the need not to ignore how the specifications and design of an office building contributes to a healthy work environment.
Every year, billions of baht are lost to the absenteeism of ill employees, or to the “presenteeism” of ill workers who show up but cannot perform at their usual level of productivity. Working in a healthy environment not only makes us feel better, it also improves our performance at work.
CBRE conducted a study that confirmed the relationship between people’s working environment and their health, and the impacts it has on their productivity and well-being. The report was based on the responses of a focus group of 124 participants, which were catalogued for seven months. The research measured five health elements to determine their impact on the focus group.
The first element was the creation of a more natural space, which was achieved by adding more live plants to the work floor, including “a green area”. This resulted in a 10 per cent increase in performance from the focus group.
The second element was implementing circadian lighting in the office. Circadian lighting technology mimics the lighting appropriate to the time of day. This helps to keep the human circadian rhythm, also known as the human body clock, in sync with the daily cycle and results in lower stress levels and improved health. In the study, the implementation of circadian lighting resulted in a 12 per cent increase in performance.
The third change was to provide healthy alternatives to sugary snacks and caffeine-heavy drinks. Instead of candies and cookies, they switched to nuts, fruits, and other healthier snack alternatives. The result was a notable 45 per cent jump in performance.
Fourth was a provision for mental balance to reduce stress. This test included meditation and yoga sessions, power naps and massages at work. Allowing these activities provided a 30 per cent increase in performance.
The fifth element measured was physical exercise. In this experiment, they categorised it as less sitting down and more physical exercise. An increase in exercise resulted in a 12 per cent bump in work performance.
The implementation of health-related initiatives not only increased performance, respondents said they also felt significantly more energised, happier and healthier in the workplace.
The building features are also important as a person’s relationship to their built environment can play a large role in wellness. In fact, the CBRE report finds that almost half the wellness features employees look for relate to their physical workspace.
Such features can range from the very simple – opening blinds to ensure sufficient amounts of natural light – to more elaborate undertakings, such as installing advanced water purification systems, plant-based air cleaning and integrated cardiovascular equipment such as treadmill desks.
In Bangkok, the key issue at the moment is air quality and this means that buildings need to have more sophisticated air conditioning systems with central air filtration to ensure internal air quality.
Some of the next generation office buildings in Bangkok will have WELL Building Institute Certification, which is the leading international certification for healthy buildings. The certification covers building air quality, water quality, nourishment options, lighting systems, fitness, comfort, mental and emotional health factors, and innovations that support these key areas.
As the concept of healthful environments grow in popularity, more tenants are going to want buildings with this type of certification. Developers that can obtain these types of certification will have an edge over the competition, and businesses that can provide a workplace environment that focuses on employee well-being will have an edge in the talent war over businesses that do not.
An ever-increasing aspect of being able to attract talent is proving through action that you are the company that shows their staff that they are incredibly valuable to you, that you want to do your part and make a positive contribution to their quality of life.
This goes beyond trendy offices space designs. Business owners must dig deeper to create a working environment that focuses on the health and well-being of their staff.
Writer by Aliwassa Pathnadabutr - Managing Director, CBRE Thailand