The Physical Workplace and its Impact on Employee Well-Being
“The person who designs and operates your building has a greater impact on your health than your doctor.”
This is a quote from Dr. Joseph Allen, Associate Professor of Exposure Assessment Science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. While I take some exception to this as a physician myself, my focus on workplace health and wellness has led me to recognize the largely untapped potential of the workplace built environment.
We spend approximately 90% of our time inside buildings. That is significantly more time than we spend in our doctor’s office, more time than we spend taking medicine prescribed by our doctor, and even more time than we spend thinking about ways that our doctor has encouraged us to live healthier lives. In addition, that time we spend indoors is the ultimate passive influence on our health; for better or for worse!
In my clinical practice as an occupational medicine physician, I frequently see workers who have building-related symptoms or illness (e.g. asthma made worse by mold or dust in the environment, complaints of headache from inadequate ventilation). However, as I have learned and applied the work of Dr. Allen and his Harvard Healthy Buildings Program, as well as participated in my own employer-based academic research, I have experienced a change of perspective. The buildings in which we live and work can serve not only as potential vectors for disease, they can also be platforms for promoting employee health, wellness and productivity.
During the era of COVID, the physical workplace of many companies has been disrupted or altered in profound ways. As organizations consider the long-term future of where their employees will work, an important opportunity to promote worker health and wellness lies before them. On April 8 at the Wellness Workdays “Emerging Trends in Wellness” Conference, I will discuss the ways in which where your employees work can influence their health, well-being and productivity. (Spoiler: even if your employees work from home, their workplace can still affect their health!)
Dr. Jones is a physician board certified in Occupational and Environmental Medicine by the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He has served in the United States Air Force for the last seven years and currently serves as an active-duty medical corps officer in his specialty of occupational medicine. Dr. Jones earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health (with an emphasis in occupational health) from Harvard University, an M.D. from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University and a B.S., cum laude, from Brigham Young University. Throughout his studies and clinical work, Dr. Jones participated in numerous occupational health research and consultation projects with companies from around the world.