What is a ‘Healthy Workplace’?

A healthy workplace is an ideal place to work in. According to some research on employee behavior, one of the top three factors that employees look for in a job is a company’s commitment to health and wellbeing of its employees. This is given more emphasis as the world transitions to the new normal, giving a deeper definition to what a healthy workplace should look like.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently published a document defining what a healthy workplace should be, post pandemic. A healthy work environment is a balance of occupational health and safety, as well as health promotion efforts and initiatives. While there may be varied qualifications and qualities, the WHO has consolidated its concrete definition: 

“A healthy workplace is one in which workers and managers collaborate to use a continual improvement process to protect and promote the health, safety and well-being of workers and the sustainability of the workplace by considering the following, based on identified needs.”  

 Physical Work Environment 

Businesses can provide a healthy workplace by ensuring that the physical work environment is set to the highest industry standards and criteria. An ideal physical work environment ensures that the design and layout of the workplace is optimal for the comfort, productivity, and motivation of its employees. 

RELATED: Optimizing Buildings for Disease Prevention 

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) found that potential employees prefer working in an office located in a LEED-certified building, where their health and wellbeing are considered to be top priority. The same study found that workers based in a LEED-certified green building are found to be more satisfied on their job, and that 79 percent of the respondents agree that they would choose a job in a LEED-certified building over a non-LEED building. 

Uplifting health and safety in the physical work environment should cover indoor air quality, ventilation, maintained optimal humidity, and industry standard protocol for cleaning and maintenance. 

 Psychosocial Work Environment  

A healthy workplace should go beyond physical modifications and provide greater support to employees to their psychosocial needs. The 2018 Global Talent Trends survey found that one in two employees would like to see a greater focus on well-being at their company especially on the physical, psychological and financial wellness of its employees. 

A company’s culture contributes a huge role on the WHO’s definition of a healthy workplace. Programs organized and initiated by a company to promote healthy habits and uplift the general wellbeing of their employees should be holistic—providing focus not just on their physical wellbeing but looking after their mental health as well. One study also raises the issue of psychosocial hazards in the workplace that should be addressed by companies to promote a healthy workplace. These may include organizational culture and the attitudes, values, beliefs and daily practices, that can contribute as stressors to employees. 

Community Health and Wellbeing 

An ideal and healthy workplace is not bound by physical workstations and office floors, but should encompass communities. Providing a workplace setting that uplifts and prioritizes the overall health and wellness of its employees creates a huge impact on public health and vice versa. As active members of the community, employees who spend the majority of their day working in their offices should be in a work environment that ensures their holistic safety and wellbeing. 

RELATED: The Importance of Public Health in Communities 

Premium green buildings, such as JEG Tower @ One Acacia, invests in the well-being of its building occupiers by addressing health and wellbeing in a holistic approach. By following industry-set standards and optimizing building design and operations, it is one of the most ideal locations to work in Cebu City. JEG Tower puts a premium on their health, while practicing sustainability and energy efficiency. 

Optimizing Buildings for Disease Prevention

The connection between health and the environment becomes increasingly defined as the world learns more about the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this new coronavirus strain can be spread in three main ways:  

  • Person-to-person via direct contact;  
  • Person-to-person via airborne respiratory droplets produced when an infected person cough or sneezes;  
  • Surface-to-person via contact with surfaces or objects that hold the virus, followed by an individual touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.  

Buildings and public spaces play a huge role in disease prevention and control. From its design to operations, buildings contribute to the battle against the spread of viruses in workplaces and offices. 

Here are some modifications and optimizations buildings can adapt to prevent another pandemic in the future:  

Promote High-quality Indoor Air  

Buildings and commercial establishments should promote high-quality indoor air quality and follow a set of standards that focuses on the ventilation and air-conditioning system. This effectively provides clean air into the building and to the office spaces. Research suggests that filtration of recirculated air may be effective in reducing the transmission of airborne infectious diseases. Filters remove dust, vapors, bacteria, and fungi, and also effectively capture viral particles spread by droplet nuclei.  

RELATED: How Green Buildings improve indoor air quality, provide a healthier working environment  

Increased Ventilation  

Ventilating with outdoor air also plays a vital role in diluting airborne contaminants and decreasing disease transmission rates within establishments. According to studies, increasing the ventilation rate can effectively reduce the cross-infection of airborne transmitted diseases by removing or diluting pathogen-laden airborne droplet nuclei. It can dilute the contaminated air inside the space more rapidly and decrease the risk of cross-infection  

Maintained Optimal Humidity  

Evidence suggests that viruses survive better in low-humidity environments. One optimization buildings can implement after the pandemic is to increase humidity via heating and ventilation systems and maintain an optimal range to 40 to 60%. This can also be achieved by installing humidifiers inside the building premises.  

Improved cleaning and maintenance protocols  

Another aspect that buildings can focus on when optimizing for disease prevention is highlighting the importance of its property management teams. Workplace policies, guidelines, and protocols must also be restructured to adapt to the “new normal” as the world observe changes this pandemic brings. The modifications and strict enforcement of these procedures should be one of the most essential responsibilities of a building’s property management team during, and even after the crisis.  

A healthy building contributes to a healthy community, which, in the long run, play a central role in creating a healthy world. In addition to everyday precautions taken by individuals and employees, the real estate industry, building owners, and developers should be aware of these optimizations that can greatly contribute to virus outbreaks in the future.