The secret to identifying the fastest ROIs in workplace technologies is to recognise human labour as the highest cost factor and measure the impact of each technology accordingly. JLL once famously created this rule of thumb – Wages = 30 x Rent & 300 x energy Consumption. These relative values mean even small percentage gains in human resources matter more than rent or energy savings. Time can be lost for a number of reasons, absenteeism, presenteeism, technological malfunction, process inefficiencies and more. There are technologies that help address these issues and their impact can therefore be profound. Plus there is the less direct value that such technologies can add through strengthening staff recruitment and retention, or as a means to impress clients.
Taking economy measures with rental and energy costs can also be assisted by workplace technologies. There are, in fact, many ways in which technology can make a valuable contribution. The key to success is to adopt a holistic approach. Of all the interventions you can take, however, wellness interventions are the ones that offer the greatest return for the lowest outlay. The effect is universal, and the cost is modest.
Successfully intervening therefore has the potential to pay huge dividends. A Harvard study published by MDPI Switzerland has shown that spending just US$40 per person, per year on indoor air quality resulted in a US$6500 increase in employee productivity.
Setting the Wellness Standard
DELOS is the company that invented the International Wellness Standard for modern buildings. They have since developed a range of products scientifically proven to deliver a higher standard of wellness, especially on the three basic aspects of air quality, experiential light and water quality. Most Australians live in cities and spend 90% of their time indoors. Most of the indoor environments that they work in fall well short of optimal wellness levels for air, light and water. (So do most homes for that matter.)
Successfully intervening therefore has the potential to dramatically improve the wellness experience delivered and empower people to be far more productive in such an environment as a result.
Wellness is for every workplace
Wellness is not a utopian pursuit restricted to high end commercial buildings or offices spaces but is a fundamental aspect that needs addressing in every indoor environment, workplace, public space or private home.
That said, it is a particularly important aspect to address in the workplace because the ROI is so substantial. Improving wellness reduces absenteeism and presenteeism, while at the same time increasing the cognitive function and productivity of the workforce. It also improves an enterprise’s recruitment and retention prospects.
Wellness measures can be taken by workplaces both large and small. This means every workplace can afford it. It also means that large workplaces can test such measures at a micro scale prior to wider deployment.
This is one of the great challenges for office buildings to overcome. No less an authority than the US Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) estimates that air pollution inside is often between two and five times greater than outside. Air quality also tops the list of desirables sought by building occupants.
Air quality in most CBD workplaces is demonstrably lower than the air outside and below the level required to support maximum productivity. Not only is the oxygen level lower through consumption, but there are elements in the air that can affect human health. Humans shed their skin every 24 hours, for example, and the particles shed are so minute they are not visible to the naked eye. There are also VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that are released to the air by many man-made materials commonly found in the workplace.
What appears to a clean, pristine environment, therefore, can actually be the exact opposite due to what’s in the air unseen. If you really want to know what’s going on with air quality, the invisible needs to be made visible and this is what Delos does as part of the process. It provides you with a dashboard in the treated space that displays the necessary metrics. The Delos air filtration system not improves air quality, but the improvement is verified visually.
The relationship between human well-being and circadian rhythms is well established, so much so that light is now used as a treatment for depression and anxiety. Workplaces that get the lighting right are measurably more productive, and comfortable light is second only to air quality in the desirability rankings of office workers. Lighting that reflects the time of day through automated control over colour temperature improves both mood and productivity. With individually addressable light sources now possible on the internet, this responsive intervention becomes easier to achieve. offices with windows provide workers with 173% more white light during business hours. This additional daylight is said to translate to 46 minutes extra sleep each night. Like most wellness aspects, better light quality supports productivity and health at the same time. Both impact the bottom line. Thanks to responsive technologies and modern lighting you can now do something about it, getting the daylight hours and illuminance levels just right wherever people are located.
Tap water has the opportunity to pick up a lot of unwanted impurities on its long journey (usually through ageing infrastructure) from the catchment reservoir, which is why chlorine is often added at the start of the journey to inhibit microbe growth. Even in cities with excellent water supply tap water will contain particulate impurities, heavy metals and chlorine elements. None of these are good for human consumption. A three stage filtration system at the user end point deals with all three; fine particles, heavy metals and the chlorine itself. The end result is water that is visibly purer and better to taste. Why pay a premium for bottled water of equivalent quality when it is more expensive and increases your carbon footprint?
Technology can help encourage healthier behaviour around nourishment as a workplace wellness aspect by promoting the benefits, drawing attention to nearby food outlets that qualify, and/or providing the means to streamline purchase of their products. This might be done through digital signage, custom apps or both.
Fitness as a wellness factor in the workplace can also be promoted by the use of digital signage or a customised smartphone app. Step count data can be displayed as competitive tables or visual prompts given to approaching individuals based on their personal tally. Enterprise IoT architecture can do amazing things. You first need to determine your priorities.
While furniture perhaps plays the major role in this wellness aspect, temperature, light and air also have significant roles to play. Rooms with better air quality and wellness lighting are more comfortable environments in which to work. Research reveals personalised control over localised temperature to be another highly desired workplace comfort aspiration, as one temperature rarely suits all occupants.
Numerous studies indicate human beings are still genetically hardwired to the sights and sounds of nature. A mere 250 years since the industrial revolution isn’t enough to break the link. Many spaces acknowledge this with the inclusion of greenery, but biophilic elements can also be put to work in other useful ways like biophilic soundscaping to improve productivity in open plan spaces.
Dedicated Wellness Spaces
More and more workplaces are now including dedicated wellness spaces, and these can take various forms. Some are large empty rooms with yoga mats and a big LED screen for video instruction, while others are fully immersive spaces with projected images in every direction. Some are simply quiet rooms to house relaxation chairs and content, while others are just a place for contemplation.
Wellness Proof of Concepts
Wellness intervention can be undertaken on a tiny or all-encompassing scale. This makes it possible to evaluate the business case with real world metrics obtained through proof of concept implementations conducted within your enterprise.
Different proof of concept models can be developed for different case needs. HR for example, might want to compare absentee data from a wellness equipped floor to those floors with no intervention. Facilities managers may want to compare usage data for a wellness equipped meeting room versus rooms left untreated. Property managers may want to test the extent to which a rental premium can be added to wellness equipped floors versus those without. Hotels may wish to trial something similar. (The MGM Grand in Las Vegas certainly found that customers were willing to pay extra.)
A proof of concept for wellness intervention is such a small and affordable step in the right direction, that taking no action at all hardly seems a viable option.