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The hybrid workplace.
If it wasn’t for the COVID-19 pandemic, most people wouldn’t give those two words a second thought. But now, after spending months working from home, many people want to stay there rather than return to the office.
Studies show that since Labor Day, more employees have been in the office than since the pandemic began and that number will likely continue to increase. According to the “2022 BOMA International COVID-19 Commercial Real Estate Impact Study,” the majority of both managers and employees indicate that three to four days in the office is the preferred amount.
As the pandemic winds down and workers return more frequently, building owners and facility executives need to remember why buildings closed in the first place: to protect the health and safety of occupants.
Healthy spaces need to remain a priority for the foreseeable future. There are obvious infection control measures that stemmed from the pandemic that facility managers should continue to implement: hand sanitizer use, disinfecting of surfaces, and improved indoor air quality. Not surprisingly, all three of these initiatives were among occupants' top demands, according to the BOMA study.
However, there are other health focuses that facility executives can also keep in mind. I recently returned from the ISSA Show where I attended a great session on the latest initiatives of the International WELL Building Institute. While the speaker did emphasize the importance of IAQ and disinfecting (after all, it was a cleaning show), he also stressed other ideas like occupant movement.
Sedentary behavior, which includes sitting for long periods of time, has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and other health issues. How do facility managers encourage movement? By recommending ergonomic furniture that can be used for both sitting and standing. Also, if stairs are not immediately visible, you can improve wayfinding to encourage using stairways over elevators.
Movement is just one example. The WELL Building Standard lists plenty more: thermal comfort, lighting, sound, IAQ, water quality — all responsibilities of the facility management department — that all tie into human health.
I understand that many people are pandemic-fatigued and tired of hearing about health. But let me point out something else I heard in the presentation: healthy workplaces can be used to recruit top talent. That’s something all companies could use amidst this “Great Resignation.” How amazing would it be if facility executives could show that their efforts led to improved employee recruitment and retention? Plus, once hired, healthier workspaces lead to greater worker productivity.
Dan Weltin is the editor-in-chief for the facility market. He has nearly 20 years of experience covering the facility management and commercial cleaning industries.