Measures of wellbeing extend from the office to the metaverse

This WORKTECH Academy Briefing looks at a new peer-reviewed report on the WELL building standard and explores pioneering developments on wellbeing in the metaverse

We’ve all heard of the WELL building standard, but how well does it really measure the wellbeing of building occupants?

A team of researchers at several US universities have set out to independently analyse the WELL certification system to verify its legitimacy as a scale for assessing the net impact of a building on the health of those who work there.

In their findings, newly published in volume 224 of the Building and Environment journal, they suggest that the WELL certification systems strongly correlates with employee health and wellbeing.

The research team used more than 1,300 pre- and post-occupancy survey responses from six companies in North America to analyse the impact of WELL certification. They found that employees in offices that have received a WELL building standard were happier, healthier and more productive than they had been before in non WELL-certified buildings.

‘Employees in WELL-certified offices were happier, healthier and more productive…’

In their study, employee perceptions of mental health and productivity were better across the board in all the organisations they examined. Employees reported a 10 per cent improvement in mental health and a 2 per cent rise in physical health. Furthermore, the study showed a near 30 per cent improvement in overall workplace satisfaction, which increased from 42 per cent to 70 per cent.

So, what does this mean? In effect, this study validates the use of the WELL building standard and confirms that it can be used to evaluate how positively a building affects the wellbeing of staff. It confirms WELL as a system that can be taken seriously by organisations, investors and employees alike.

It also brings attention to the importance of factors such as lighting, air quality and encouraging healthy eating and increased exercise. Some employers are still stuck in the past when it comes to wellbeing initiatives and fail to see the bigger impact that workplace design can have on an employee’s wellbeing and productivity.

The publication of more independently verified research on workplace wellbeing may well encourage more employers to take wellbeing seriously.

Wellbeing in the metaverse

As more investment is pumped into the Metaverse, more and more companies are banking on the future of the workplace becoming virtual. With VR and AR technology poised to become as influential as the smartphone or laptop, the question remains: what will the workplace look like once the virtual revolution arrives?

We’ve all heard that Zoom meetings could be conducted virtually instead of on a 2D screen and that companies are buying up office space in the metaverse. But how will organisations continue to develop their company culture and care for their employees once their office is stored in the cloud?

In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, UK start-up PixelMax suggests that it has the answer: it is not only providing companies with virtual meeting spaces and virtual offices but also designing immersive wellbeing spaces that employees can retreat to in order to refresh and renew.

‘Immersive green wellbeing spaces that employees can retreat to in order to refresh…’

These spaces could be green environments or forests where employees can get back to nature, or even a calm yoga studio where employees can partake in guided meditation and reflection. PixelMax has even designed an experience around visiting the moon to give workers a glimpse of another world in order to inspire and invigorate.

As we already know, the inclusion of biophilic design elements can greatly boost the wellbeing of employees, with a glimpse of green offering workers some mental respite. So, when employees are able to immerse themselves in a virtual jungle, will this increase the levels of wellbeing staff feel even further?

Only more time and research will tell, but this exploration into wellbeing and the metaverse offers companies a new opportunity to examine how they can support employee wellbeing in the future.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 2 November 2022.
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