Get Well Soon - How Building Technology is Supporting Employee Health

Technology has always been an obsession in commercial real estate. Everywhere we turn, we hear the heated conversation in CRE circles. More bandwidth, redundant power, easier turnstiles, more expedient security, faster elevator systems. The list is endless, the prices soar, everyone has the features and brags on them – but the challenge is finding the most relevant technologies for today, technology that businesses and individuals really value.

Not long ago, the biggest consideration in technology was sustainability - green systems, fewer emissions, recycled materials, recycling facilities. Interestingly enough, the highly sought after LEED certification that came with all the sustainability efforts became merely a box to check for some businesses – it was not a primary driver of leasing consideration. After lots of studies and surveys, it became evident the business community was not putting ECO first - it didn’t directly impact the employees.

But now there’s a bigger, more important and far more human umbrella under which sustainability falls: tenant wellness. In the current and fierce talent driven economy, employers and building developers alike are scrambling to find creative ways to attract the best employees, and wellness is fast becoming the hot topic.

According to the WELL Building Standard (not a widely understood certification), wellness is measured on air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. It’s one tough standard to earn, but it promotes concepts that compel building owners to strive to create environments that support wellness for their tenants.


Building features and technology supporting tenant wellness

The first building to be WELL certified in New York, Structure Tone’s headquarters, boasts wellness features from flooring to paint to a café fully stocked with healthy food. Some wellness features are new and some are making a comeback.

Smart glass (or switchable glass) is glass that automatically dims when more sunlight hits it. While this technology has fallen in and out of style throughout the years, certain buildings are embracing it in either glass form or film form to optimize views and minimize energy costs. It’s a technology that gets mixed reviews, but it starts to address a real problem. It’s one solution to providing a more comfortable environment for tenants.

Another building feature that addresses the issue of sunlight is the concept of the offset core. In one study, workplaces with good daylight had a 3 - 40% gain in productivity and sales. By moving the “core” of the building (restrooms, elevators, etc.) to the exterior instead of the middle, much more natural sunlight is allowed in, not to mention that more flexible floor plates are created.

A newer wellness trend that’s growing is bringing the outdoors in. A study from Dr. Chris Knight concluded that employees were 15% more productive when their workplaces were filled with just a few houseplants. Some buildings are taking the trend to a whole other level by creating “living walls.” Building structures that support green space are showing up more and more.

Apps are starting to play a bigger role in employee wellness, with apps that remind employees to get up and move or even facilitate a little friendly fitness competition between employees. Companies are starting to support wellness with technology and building layouts in all sorts of ways, including nap pods, walking desks, high tech sparkling water dispensers, and meditation studios.


The future of wellness technology

As building owners and developers are focusing more on creating healthy buildings from the start, the Internet of Things (IoT) is coming into the mix. The use of smart technology in buildings for temperature control and lighting is rising. The future of office space looks healthy - and smart.