Wellbuilt for Wellbeing
The Office of Federal High-Performance Buildings’ Wellbuilt for Wellbeing research project was designed to help GSA better understand the influence of the office environment on human health, comfort and performance. Our findings are influencing the way GSA approaches the design and operation of work spaces and will inform the future design of federal buildings. Since we spend 90% of our time indoors this perspective is critical.
Denver Federal Building Study
Wellbuilt for Wellbeing builds on prior GSA-sponsored research which found that employees working in a newly renovated section of a federal office building had lower physiological stress response (as measured by wearable sensors) than a similar group working in an unrenovated space. Improvements in sound, daylight, and window views correlated with reduced stress, but the research could not determine the relative importance of these factors or other unmeasured aspects of the space. Significant advancements in real-time sensing technology paved the way for Wellbuilt for Wellbeing by enabling the collection of accurate, simultaneous measures of employee physiological health outcomes, psychological wellbeing, and environmental conditions.
Wellbuilt for Wellbeing used a “discovery method” to explore potential interactions between human health and the widest range of indoor environmental factors ever captured in the field in real time. Our interdisciplinary team used innovative sensing technologies, including wearable devices, to measure human health outcomes and environmental conditions in real time as employees went about their normal work. We then used advanced analytic methods to identify environmental levers (office layout, humidity, sound and CO2 levels) that might reduce stress, improve sleep and increase physical activity. We did not limit ourselves to testing a single hypothesis but kept our eyes open for any possible relationships.
What steps can you take now to improve your own health at work?
Break up your day with “micro-breaks!”
- Spend 10-20 seconds every half hour looking away from your monitor; too much screen-time increases dry eye symptoms and fatigue.
- Stand up and walk around; sitting a long time without getting up increases stress and simple movement can be as beneficial as the gym
- Spend your break outside; fresh air can improve focus and decision making; and 30 minutes of daylight, especially in the morning, is great for circadian stimulus.
- Add water to your breaks; you may not feel thirsty but water loss happens continuously through the skin and contributes to fatigue, inflammation and infection.
Make comfort personal, it is not one-size-fits-all!
- How might changes in dress, location in the building, or using personal devices like a small fan or foot warmer improve how comfortable the temperature feels?
- Where are places in the office where you feel best able to focus, can you go there when you need to get things done?
- Does using a fan to provide air movement help you concentrate on tasks?
While the discovery method allowed our team to be open to unexpected connections between the indoor environment and health, we do not offer our findings as definitive proof. They suggest areas for further study that have a significant likelihood of improving human health through the built environment. The Wellbuilt for Wellbeing Project Team will continue to develop ours and other research findings going forward.