Office Space Post COVID: Health & Wellness Focus 05/05/20

Office Space Post COVID: Health & Wellness Focus

It is certainly too early to predict the long term impacts the COVID-19 crisis will have on the CRE industry; however, it is a safe bet that the office sector will see some of the largest impacts with resulting changes in design and amenities. The relative success of remote work in some fields will see firms reconsidering their office space needs while adjustments in design will need to be made to accommodate social distancing guidelines. This time of crisis will also result in individuals and companies taking stock of what is most important to them personally and within company culture.  A spotlight on health and wellness, a trend already on the rise prior to this outbreak, will move even further to the forefront with human-centric design key to offices going forward.

Employees of all ages rank access to natural light and views as top amenities, higher than onsite food or fitness center. The COVID-19 crisis will certainly further this trend with health being at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Along with the importance of health and wellness to employees themselves, it should be imperative for bosses to value these factors. Apart from the obvious importance of moral, there are productivity losses that come into play in work locations where employees are not comfortable. According to studies around 33% of employees lose more than 60 minutes a day due to physical and environmental factors. Research from Gartner also found, “Employees who are satisfied with their workplace are 16% more productive, 18% more likely to stay with the company, and 30% more attracted to the company over competitors.”, showing that the workplace plays a critical role in the attraction and retention of top talent. 

  The rankings % surveyed
1 Natural light 53%
2 Views of the outdoors 53%
3 Kitchen 37%
4 Open office space 28%
5 Onsite food 23%
6 Onsite cafeteria 21%
7 Walking/standing desks 17%
8 Outdoor space 15%
9 Onsite fitness center 10%
10 Onsite medical care 10%


Further reinforcing the importance of these environmental amenities as opposed to the trendier options, a recent Harvard study that tracked workplace wellness programs, an $8B industry, found no positive impacts on three major employment outcomes. The study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed these programs, which are expected to make employees healthier and reduce health spending, yield unimpressive results. No positive effects were found on absenteeism, job tenure, and job performance. Another workplace study conducted by Cornell focused on the effects of natural light in the workplace. Smart windows, like those provided by View, allowed for optimized daylight for employees. The smart windows maximized the amount of natural light while simultaneously reducing glare. The improved daylight conditions were shown to reduced eye strain, headaches, and drowsiness among the employees working behind smart windows compared to those working in offices with traditional windows and blinds. Going forward the way employees feel within their work environment is going to be one of the most important metrics for gauging wellness and productivity, and time and again studies have shown employees want a healthy environment with clean air, natural light, comfortable temperatures, and low noise levels.

As we return to work and the new normal, firms are going to be more thoughtful about their real estate needs especially as this is often one of the largest expenses on their balance sheet. Offices offering quality wellness amenities, like clean air and ample natural light will be able to situate themselves ahead of the competition, especially if there are multiple options as vacancy rates rise. Saving money by cutting pointless office perks and focusing on what employees really want is a safe strategy for those in the office sector.


Contributor Bio


View’s vision is built around the belief that natural light is required to live a healthy and productive life, but the ordinary window is far from optimized to provide it. View’s smart glass windows let in natural light and views and enhance mental and physical well-being by significantly reducing headaches, eyestrain, and drowsiness. They also reduce glare and heat, improving the energy efficiency of buildings by up to 20 percent.

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