Wellbeing is the new green, and many companies are starting to invest in this concept. Every year, studies reveal the close connection between employee productivity and wellbeing in the workplace. In response, organizations are changing their values, keen to jumpstart wellness programs that attract and retain top talent.
From natural light and good indoor air quality to comfort and access to nature, a healthy space isn’t just environmentally friendly; it keeps stress levels at bay, cares about personal wellbeing and gives back to the local community.
Here are some points to consider when searching for quality space that extends this culture past the boardroom.
The indoor environment should be a place of comfort, and some venues now offer special amenities to help create physical and mental relaxation. After looking at studies that reveal body temperature differences in occupants, the Shaw Centre in downtown Ottawa introduced a program that hands out branded pashminas to cold guests. In addition, meeting planners and guests with tired feet can kick off their heels and grab a pair of flat ballerina shoes.
Services that promote the comfort of people with physical disabilities also create wellbeing. Fully accessible facilities that take a universal approach to design ensure equal access and participation for all, while mitigating stress. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 and the Ontario Building Code have prompted changes, and many venues have undergone renovations so attendees with limited mobility can easily navigate a space with dignity and independence.
Breath of fresh air
The most fundamental component of human health is the air we breathe. According to The Lung Association, Canadians spend 90 per cent of their time indoors. For this reason, good air quality is an important concern for wellbeing, especially for people with asthma and allergies.
Besides providing a healthier space, good air quality also increases engagement. A study from the World Green Building Council and Jones Lang LaSalle says that low concentrations of CO2 and pollutants and high ventilation rates lead to an estimated eight to 11 per cent improvement in productivity.
Many venues have filtration strategies to remove and prevent airborne contaminants, while using low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) materials, such as cleaning products, paints, sealants, adhesives and carpets.
The use of plant-based cups at water coolers, biodegradable plates and cutlery and chlorine-free beverage napkins that are green seal certified and tagged with an ecologo are all responsibly sourced products that support healthy indoor air.
As a first step, seek out facilities that have achieved green certifications, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design). This ensures the venue has met tougher indoor air quality requirements and green cleaning policies. A higher certification level means a stronger eco-friendly regime. Scope out these venues to set the tone for your sustainable event or to support companies already accustomed to a green building culture.
Let nature take its course
Exposure to nature makes people feel better emotionally and contributes to their physical wellbeing while reducing blood pressure. Bringing the outdoors inside isn’t an easy feat, but more designers are incorporating building elements that reflect our instinctive bond with nature. For instance, many designers are looking to the wellness-related benefits of daylighting. Lower levels of light during the day can cause drowsiness, especially in the afternoon, and lead to a drop in serotonin, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Facilities are embracing natural light with features like double glazed windows and daylight sensors. The Shaw Centre is one venue that has installed daylight sensors on the ceiling of all its meeting levels. Artificial light automatically dims when enough natural light fills the Centre through its 1,804 triangular windows.
Besides daylighting, nature elements like the Centre’s Wall of Three Rivers, made from reclaimed logs retrieved from the city’s three local rivers, are the first thing people see when they enter the lobby. Here, guests are encouraged to embrace nature right from the start.
Pay it forward
More and more companies are initiating sustainability and wellness programs that benefit not only employees, but also the local community outside the building, in turn creating wellbeing for all. Conference services that give back to a community allow guests to contribute in a meaningful way and are a feel-good must.
Some venues are already implementing this giving culture with programs that recycle event materials to non-profit organizations. For instance, the Shaw Centre’s Leave a Legacy Program enables clients to pay it forward with what is left behind with assistance from volunteer colleagues who package goods and make all the arrangements.
Planners are often told that donating food is too risky or that a venue doesn’t have a food waste recovery management system in place, but programs do exist and generate no extra costs. Following the Loblaw National Kick off Vendor Fair held at the Centre, more than 100,000 pounds of food were donated to local food banks, resulting in the largest unique donation ever recorded. But it’s not all about food. The Ottawa International Show had more than 25,000 square-feet of carpet left over from its event. Centre volunteers contacted Habitat for Humanity and the organization was happy to accept the donation. Such services are an easy and flexible way to make a difference.