Get Well Soon-at Work

Psychiatric TimesVol 33 No 10
Volume 33
Issue 10

With the modern office environment comes another type of “climate change”-designed to shape workers psychologically.

An open-concept home was not very popular in the 50s (1950s, that is). Today, few homebuyers would consider anything else. The same cannot be said for the open office, which workers generally resisted when the idea gained momentum in the US.1

I suspect most people “pretended” to like the open environment to keep their jobs, or at the very least, to go with the flow. Today, it is virtually unheard of to have your own office, the rationale being that open creates a better work environment . . . “better,” meaning more collaboration, the merging of social and work habits, and so on.

As a former business owner, I suspect the real motive behind open offices initially was the bottom line-less overhead, fewer surreptitious activities that could harm the company, increased accountability, and greater transparency.

Editors, writers, attorneys, and other knowledge workers balked at open offices, with constant distraction and chaos.2,3 We (I) reminisced about the old days when we had our own offices.

Alas, the open office is old news and let’s face it-practically speaking, the operational landscape has changed dramatically with the mobile nature of business. With 50% to 70% of employees working at least part of the time from home, an agile work environment is a must.4

Molding of the mind

With modern corporate culture comes another type of “climate change”-and it is gaining momentum. Some companies have taken the open design concept and run with it, to shape workers psychologically-through wellness.

For example, the International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™) claims the WELL Building Standard™ (WELL) is the first initiative to focus exclusively on the health and wellness of the people in buildings.5

It reportedly combines best practices in design and construction with medical and scientific research to set performance requirements in 7 categories relevant to occupant health and well-being: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.

Since WELL v1 was launched in October 2014, the building standard has seen promising results. CBRE Group Inc.’s Global Corporate Headquarters in downtown Los Angeles became the first commercial office building in the world to achieve WELL Certification through the pilot program.6

One year after occupancy, an employee survey showed:

• 92% of respondents reported that the new space created a positive effect on their health and well-being

• 94% said the new space has had a positive impact on their business performance

• 83% said that they felt more productive

Green gone global

The interest in WELL has continued to grow, with more than 250 projects now registered or certified under the standard in 23 countries worldwide.

“Given [that] we now spend more than 90% of our time indoors, it is becoming increasingly important to place people at the heart of design and construction, operations, and development decisions,” said Paul Scialla, Founder of the IWBI.

WELL Certification for buildings was recently introduced in Canada and is administered by the International WELL Building Institute and third-party certified by Green Business Certification Inc. Toronto-Dominion (TD) Bank recognized the importance of one’s workspace and was first to achieve WELL Certification under v1 of WELL.7

The bottom line

If we can improve physical and mental health on location, despite the distractions of an open office, working at work might be a good thing. Although I’m still a proponent of telecommuting-it eases stress, increases productivity, and reduces our carbon footprint-the WELL idea is a step in the right direction.


10 ways to get well on the job

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"53462","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_3737710001224","media_crop_h":"210","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"6684","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"170","media_crop_scale_w":"124","media_crop_w":"153","media_crop_x":"3","media_crop_y":"42","style":"float: right;","title":" ","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Here are 10 optimization standards that may promote wellness (and beat burnout) at work:

1. Advanced lighting design that alters with daily circadian rhythms to support healthy sleep/wake cycles

2. Active design, such as centralized filing cabinets to encourage physical activity throughout the day

3. Mindful design (eg, artwork that creates aesthetically pleasing spaces that can help building occupants derive a measure of comfort or joy from their surroundings)

4. Higher standards for water quality

5. Ergonomic design

6. Acoustic planning

7. Active transportation support, such as basic bike tools for commuting cyclists

8. Optimized spaces for both work and rest, including spaces such as tranquility lounges to take a break and rejuvenate the mind

9. Better access to health and wellness literature and educational materials, such as through on-site health fairs

10. Active workstations, including treadmills and/or bicycle desks


Related content:

The Challenges of Preventing Burnout6 Strategies to Prevent Physician Burnout“Burnout”: Strategies to Prevent and Overcome a Common-and Dangerous-Problem


This article was originally posted on 9/9/2016 and has since been updated.

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