Established businesses are increasingly held to account by their staff and other stakeholders for how well they provide a comfortable, healthy working environment. Research suggests that we are spending more and more time in the workspace, and whether that is a healthy, comfortable place to be has a real impact on absenteeism and productivity.
Out of this trend, the internationally recognised certification scheme Fitwel has emerged. Fitwell provides a set of criteria, focused around aspects such as considerate workspace design and promoting a healthy lifestyle, against which a company is assessed. It provides a comprehensive, accessible and cost-effective assessment of a building’s health that either a building owner or a business itself can undertake.
The scope of Fitwel
Born in the US, Fitwel is gaining traction across Europe, including in the UK. The internationally recognised certification scheme was developed by a collection of researchers, urban planners and architects who collectively pieced together the indicators of a building’s health.
The overriding appeal of Fitwel is that it makes quite a nebulous subject more concrete. A business or property manager who knows that a building needs to be improved might not know where to start. How can staff be encouraged to take the stairs not the lift? What facilities really impact employee wellbeing? Though not prescriptive, Fitwel can point you in the right direction.
Buildings are scored against 12 ‘strategies’, such as the building’s location, the indoor environment, access to drinking water, the prevalence of cycling facilities and the quality of shared spaces. There’s nothing surprising there; when a building is considered as a whole, they are all elements that anyone who spends time there might consider.
These strategies in turn all relate to at least one health impact that a business needs to consider, such as increasing people’s physical activity, reducing absenteeism or promoting occupant safety. These are all weighted differently, depending on their perceived impact. The whole point is to ensure that a business is actively considering all aspects of welfare.
Where can Fitwel be applied?
Fitwell can be applied to any building, whether new or existing. Whether you are a fund manager with a portfolio of buildings or a business with just one office, you can apply the Fitwell strategies. The assessment doesn’t measure the scale of the strategy, but its impact.
Creating the right environment doesn’t have to involve extensive building work or an elaborate fit-out. Many changes can be made to company policies, to promote the best sort of lifestyle for employees. For example, one of the main reasons that employees no longer take the stairs is the prevalence of lifts. By putting interesting artwork in stairwells, or perhaps playing music or an interesting speech, people might be encouraged to take the time to climb the stairs.
The benefits of Fitwel
There are lots of known and quantifiable benefits to providing effective lighting, excellent air quality and healthy food options. The UK’s growing millennial workforce is highly vocal about the need for cycling facilities, showers and their desire to work in a location well-placed for other amenities such as transport and leisure.
Above this, however, the overriding benefit of a respected external certification such as Fitwel it that it provides a benchmark against which a business can measure itself and demonstrate its care for its employees. By gaining Fitwel certification, a property manager or owner can clearly demonstrate the excellent health of a building. According to Fitwel, 49% of building owners are willing to pay more for a property that is demonstrated to have a positive impact on health.
Similarly, a business can use the certification to attract new employees and boost its brand image, which is vital in today’s race for talent. Many companies report on corporate social responsibility and certification can make that job far simpler.
How to get started
Fitwel is a low-cost, simple process. LSH has a team of qualified Fitwell assessors who can guide you through all aspects of the assessment and certification process.
There is real scope for Fitwel to grow rapidly across the UK as more and more businesses recognise the benefits of external assessment. Now is the time to take your building’s health seriously.
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