Why healthy offices matter more than ever

The healthy offices/building movement has been impacting facilities management for some time now. Most FM teams will be used to evaluation checklists featuring bottle filling stations and green walls alongside the more usual HVAC and lighting checks.

But in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the need to create safe and welcoming spaces is more pressing than ever. The challenge for facilities managers is to create healthy offices that workers will want to return to after working from home during the lockdown.

Build on good practice

Healthy workspaces will depend on the ongoing work that your team has undertaken to improve health and wellbeing and work towards sustainability. As an FM manager, you’ll be expected to have the expertise to maintain the building in line with aesthetic and psychological concerns as well as purely practical ones.

Encourage healthy behaviours

While it’s vital that the day to day evaluation of your building impacts positively on health, you need to take the long-range view and start by encouraging healthy behaviours.

Green building initiatives are no longer simply nice-to-haves. They demonstrate measurable impacts on productivity, they help to attract and retain employees and they can reduce the amount of time lost to sick leave.

A combination of features including natural and ambient lighting, greenery and outdoor access can promote happiness and productivity. Measures to encourage fitness and wellbeing could include walking trails, onsite fitness classes and accessible stairwells to encourage taking more steps during the day.

Upgrading amenities

Welcoming workers back after a pandemic, particularly those who are anxious about social distancing and hygiene, could be a challenge. Offering quality of life features and tangible engagement can help to tempt back employees who’ve enjoyed working from home.

Well planned gathering spaces with baked-in social distancing features will encourage interaction. Decor influenced by home interiors should include sofas and quiet places. Ultimately, you should be aiming to create a more flexible and agile workspace that integrates remote and onsite employees.

Communication first

In the new normal that awaits us after lockdown, communication will be central to every facilities manager’s role. Among the need for checklists and system audits, don’t lose sight of your building users and the need to educate them on the health and wellbeing strategies being implemented in the workplace.

Re-enforce the fact that these measures are designed to make their work environment both more efficient and productive while making it a safer and healthier place to be. Clear communications through a number of channels including signage, text and email will let users know what’s happening, when and why.

And by dealing with employees’ concerns in a timely and transparent manner you’ll keep them reassured and engaged.

FM managers have a vital role to play

As lockdown eases and employees return to work, the healthy offices trend is bound to deepen. There will be a real need to demonstrate to employees that their buildings are safe and healthy and facilities management has a pivotal role to play in the process, whether that’s communicating critical information or enacting hygiene and social distancing measures.

Careful evaluation and thoughtful updates can help to create the kind of healthy built environments that encourage wellbeing and productivity.