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Can the Workplace Make You Healthy?
Can the Workplace Make You Healthy?
Health and Wellness in the Physical Environment

There is a new trend in workplace wellness that goes beyond incentivizing healthy choices and fostering a culture of wellness. In a sense, it moves beyond wellness within the workplace and incorporates a mindful approach to physical building factors related to but beyond LEED certification. It’s called WELL Building Certification and it is a new, unique approach to making health and wellness part of the built, or physical, environment.

The standards of WELL Building Certification take into account seven factors that are based on medical research about how the physical environment impacts human health: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. The requirements within those seven factors total more than 100 in all, and are designed to improve workers overall performance, health, mood, and even sleep.

For example, indoor air quality should be optimized through removal of contaminants and purification. Water quality should be enhanced while also being accessible—water bottle filling stations with filters are a great example. Nourishment refers to the support of healthy eating habits through healthier food choices and behavioral cues appropriate to good nutrition.

The light factor is of particular interest in this model because of its effect on the human body’s natural circadian rhythm. Natural light is simulated with the use of light fixtures that get brighter and then dim accordingly as the day goes on. In addition, task-appropriate lighting is also considered.

Fitness is reflected in building design that encourages physical activity throughout the day. Placing printers in a central area and encouraging the use of stairwells through strategic placement are common examples. Comfort and stress reduction are incorporated through design components that offer an element of relaxation and minimize discomfort.

The WELL Building Standard is administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), a public benefit corporation that is third-party certified by Green Business Certification—the same group that administers LEED certification. The standard was developed over seven years, combining a three-phase peer review process across scientific, practitioner, and medical experts. Nearly 200 projects have already registered or certified through WELL.

Take the next step
Want to make a real difference in your organization’s wellness program? Complete your bachelor’s degree online with University of Wisconsin Health and Wellness Management. And, beginning this fall, the Master of Science in Health and Wellness Management is an option for those seeking a graduate-level degree. Applications are currently being accepted.

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