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Why WELL certified co-working spaces should be the new norm

And how Asia's first WELL pre-certified co-working space is driving change.

By  

Barnali

October 22, 2021

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The year 2020 was welcomed with cautionary tales as people succumbed to a mysterious disease. As the months rolled by, this mystery was soon named COVID-19 and declared a pandemic by the WHO.

Soon panic had set in and people started hoarding essentials off the supermarket shelves. Finally, most employees stopped going to their offices. All crowded areas were banned and everyone was encouraged to avoid going out unless absolutely necessary.

The only way to battle this new virus was hygiene and sanitization. Hygiene emerged as a critical element in the every day operations across all sectors — from food delivery services to banking — and they adopted no-contact policies and the highest standards of hygiene. Amidst such global adversity, workspaces lay abandoned. The only ones who still worked out of their offices were the essential workers.

Multiple factors were responsible for this:

(i) It’s almost impossible to maintain social distancing in the traditional office setup

(ii) Most workspaces overlook employee well-being in terms of design and culture

It took a pandemic for managing bodies across organizations to realize that the lack of employee-focused workspaces is directly proportional to an organization’s sustainability and scalability.

How the pandemic impacted co-working spaces?

Many sectors and industries continue to succumb to the pandemic, including co-working spaces. As an increasing number of office goers have been working from home for the past three months, co-working spaces remained open for the essential workforce. But the latest lockdown guidelines have allowed companies to resume their operations in a limited fashion. Although employees have started coming back to their offices now, the number is very small.

With a slow but steady rise in attendance, co-working spaces face increasing concerns over the issue of maintaining high standards of safety and sanitization.

Being the hub of multiple companies, a co-working workspace requires a strict, if not stricter, standard of quality evaluation without fail.

Almost all major co-working spaces have adopted preventive measures to make their campus COVID-free. This includes regular sanitization of workstations and fumigation of the campus amongst many others. However, proofing a co-working space against the pandemic is not just limited to these preventive measures.

It’s high time that co-working spaces realize the importance of establishing a wellness-driven community. The pandemic exceeds the boundaries of social distancing and regular sanitization. It goes beyond these and includes matters of both mental and physical health.

A co-working space that does not leverage wellness will not survive such pandemic(s). The need for a wellness-driven community includes all aspects of a co-working space — from physical elements to the abstract ones.

Why not WELL?

Maintaining high standards of hygiene, sanitization, and wellness in a co-working space is not as easy as it sounds. It requires a universal standard to rate and monitor each aspect of the shared space. It is under these circumstances that the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) enters the picture.

The importance of hygiene, coupled with wellness in its entirety, has been a priority of IWBI since 2014. IWBI is leading the global movement towards the easy adoption of holistic-driven communities throughout the world. They deliver the global rating system focused on enhancing the health and wellness of individuals and organizations.

WELL is the leading tool with which IWBI advances health and well-being in buildings globally.

Nora Knox defines WELL as a “performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.”

According to the WELL standard guidelines, a holistic approach to health is the key to a healthy community. It includes an amalgamation of both physical and abstract factors.

IWBI gives out certifications to organizations that comply with its standards of buildings, interior spaces, and communities for a healthier ecosystem.

It is well-established that physical, emotional, and economic impacts are directly proportional to an individual’s wellness. Hence, physical buildings and the community inside each building plays an important role in an individual’s health and well-being. Institutions like IWBI aim to monitor the ecosystem inside an office which includes micro-elements of the above-mentioned physical and abstract factors like biophilia, ergonomics, etc.

International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) posted on LinkedIn

For example, the primary function of an HVAC system is to provide optimum indoor comfort. It achieves this through various means:

(i) controls the indoor temperature through heating and cooling;

(ii) controls the humidity level by controlling the movement and distribution of indoor air.

Although temperature and humidity controls seem trivial to an office, they play important roles in establishing the just-right atmosphere in a workspace. Also, HVAC systems help minimize airborne disease transmission in general thus preventing the spread of coronavirus infections like COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.

When an employee unlocks the desired comfort level in her workspace, she is more likely to devote herself to her company. This in turn leads to employee productivity and well-being at the workplace. A WELL certification not just compels implementing the required methods but also nudges the management to adopt an employee’s needs before revenue.

How India’s first WELL pre-certified co-working space is driving change?

With rising concerns in regards to well-being, leaders across sectors and industries are trying to adopt an empathetic approach towards employees. They now understand the importance of an employee-driven company culture more than ever before. And nothing promotes employee benefits more than their well-being.

Implementing WELL standards in a workspace might not be easy for companies of all sizes. To be honest, it requires not just tremendous capital investment but unparalleled dedication and objective vision from the management.

Making sure that a workspace check all the boxes — innovation, design, and flexibility — is imperative.

2gethr is WELL

The objective of 2gethr has always been to create a space that adopts a humane and empathetic perspective towards the working environment. Being a co-working space, 2gethr understands the added responsibility when it comes to creating a healthy and safe space, both for its employees and its members.

Recognizing the importance of health and wellness in a community, 2gethr adopted WELL v2 for its Outer Ring Road (ORR) campus in Bangalore in 2019.

Stephen P. Brown, WELL Faculty posted on LinkedIn

2gethr understands that a WELL certified space is the answer to building a sustainable employee-driven environment. It not only helps its employees but dozens of individual companies take care of their employees too. Companies of all sizes can benefit from such initiatives, irrespective of their culture or resources.

Understanding and implementing environmental psychology is a part of this process. It requires wielding the natural surroundings and technology to create the perfect space for employees.

2gethr has executed the required criteria to achieve WELL pre-certification status.

(i) Locally-sourced biophilia and human-centric designs to re-establish human connection with Nature and promote better health by reducing stress and improving cognitive function as well as creativity

(ii) Ergonomic workspace to improve employee comfort and lower work-related injuries through lumbar support chairs and also providing monitor arms, height-adjustable tables, etc. when requested

(iii) Toxin-free, nature-inspired design and materials as per the CDPH (California Department of Public Health) to minimize and restrict emission of carcinogenic fumes and derive the sense of harmony that human beings feel normally while being surrounded by natural surroundings

(iv) Mental health support through regular mental health workshops and literature related to mental health throughout the common areas as well as yoga sessions

(v) Thermal support through improved HVAC system design and control to provide overall human satisfaction

(vi) Clean indoor air through UV lamps installed inside the Air Handling Unit (AHU) to treat air inflow

(vii) Restorative opportunities like sleep pods, gaming zones, jacuzzi to avoid burnout and provide relief from daily stressors

(viii) A global standard of drinking water is maintained through RO+ and UV filters along with regular tests conducted every quarter to monitor the water

(ix) IoT-enabled workspace through CO₂ sensors, sensor taps, sensor-controlled HVAC systems, and electric light

(x) Responsible food sourcing to promote healthy and mindful eating habits

It’s time that companies adopt this employee-driven outlook and invest in their employees’ health and well-being.

After all, a healthy workforce makes a company healthy, wealthy, and wise.

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