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How to Make the Money Case for Health and Wellness
Healthy occupants are happy ones. And happy occupants are more productive ones. That’s the elevator pitch for justifying investments in health and wellness strategies for buildings. After all, since employee salaries are easily the most expensive line item in any organization’s budget, facility managers focusing on the human factor in their buildings should be a no-brainer. Still, tying specific financial outcomes to health and wellness strategies in buildings can be tricky. Productivity isn’t easy to prove. Nor can you just say, “Well, this is self-apparent, now please give me the money.” But even without down-to-the-penny ROI calculations, a strong financial case can still be made to justify health and wellness strategies.
It’s what the people want — Health and wellness strategies are in high demand these days as people have become more active and fit. Therefore, many organizations are recognizing the value of bringing these health and wellness strategies to the workplace. And savvy facility managers know that the key to any justification case is crafting an argument to meet the priority of an organization. “An explicit focus on health and well-being helps building owners maximize the potential of real estate assets due to increasing tenant demand with health-promoting features,” says Kelly Worden, director of health research for the U.S. Green Building Council.
Jeremy Attema, a project manager for stok, and co-author of a study titled “The Financial Case for High-Performance Buildings,” agrees: “If you are trying to attract new tenants, health and wellness demonstrated through your building can be a major differentiator from your competitors.”
Millennials are particularly interested in health and wellness strategies that augment workplace culture. According to a study by CBRE titled “Millennials: Myths and Realities,” 78 percent of millennials say that workplace quality is important when choosing an employer. “Employers are looking for spaces that are health-promoting because that is what employees are demanding, and this directly impacts employee attraction and retention,” says Joanna Frank, president and CEO of The Center for Active Design.
“There is a growing awareness of the impacts of our environments on our health, and increasingly consumers are seeking spaces that offer clean air, safe drinking water and a sense of comfort knowing that their space is benefitting them,” says Jessica Cooper, chief commercial officer, International WELL Building Institute.
We can get certified — Certifications add value to a building; they’re a third-party stamp of approval assuring occupants and potential tenants alike that a building has met a series of high-level targets. So facility managers can justify health and wellness strategies by showing how they’ll contribute to these certifications, and literally make a building more valuable. For health and wellness strategies, two ratings systems, WELL and Fitwel, are gaining increased market traction and recognition, as LEED did a decade or so before. Both of these rating systems offer extensive checklists of strategies to promote health and wellness in buildings. “With the release of new frameworks such as the UN Global Compact’s Sustainable Development Goals, and the GRESB Health and Well-Being Module, it is becoming increasingly important to measure and report on building performance,” says Cooper
Dovetails nicely with green — Sustainability and health and wellness are natural allies. “Sustainable building strategies have the ability to create superior environments that promote human health and well-being in the near term while preserving resources and protecting the environment for human benefit in the long term,” says Worden. Almost every facility manager is working on sustainability to some degree, so adding health and wellness to any justification just adds strength to the argument. For instance, daylighting both saves energy and helps regulate occupants’ circadian rhythms, enhancing sleep at night. This is just one of many ways that health and wellness strategies can help improve occupant performance and satisfaction, and are therefore important pieces of any justification argument. “Often the connection of building operations and human performance isn’t discussed during decisions,” says Attema. “But if they were, it would allow the project team to avoid value engineering the proposed strategy out of the project.”
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