Anytime I work with employees or employers, there are often complaints or requests about the physical environment. Whether it’s the air temp, air quality or noise level, the buildings where we work can either enhance or detract from our well-being. It isn’t until recently that there has been some attention to the impact of the built environment on employee health and wellness.

One of the people to credit for this spotlight on the built environment is Leigh Stringer. Leigh is a workplace strategy expert and author of the Healthy Workplace. Leigh and I talk about the impact of physical space on employee health, easy ways to create a healthy workplace and the inspiration for her most recent book, the Healthy Workplace.

I also want to thank Leigh for opening up about her experience when she was seriously drained at her job. She talks about what caused the burn out and what she did about it.

Health and wellness wasn’t addressed when Leigh went to school for architecture. She tells us about a school (George Mason) that incorporates well-being into their core curriculum. They created a Center for Well-being (linked below) and the Director went to each University department to see if they would incorporate well-being in their curriculum. They also host a conference each year.

Leigh realized the impact of the built environment on health and wellness when she had allergic reactions in the workplace and when she started to use a standing desk during the day.

She calls the physical space the “silent partner”, meaning we don’t notice how it can nudge our behavior. Leigh mentions The Health and Human Performance Index that looks at organizational wellbeing and individual survey metrics. She helped add on the built environment.

Fun fact: When companies have green space and parks around them improves physical activity.

I ask Leigh what are small tweaks an employer can make? She introduces me to a new word: Biophilia (a preference to be among nature). When you have a view of nature, plants, even fake plants, or a water feature it’s restorative and reduces stress. Leigh also offers these suggestions:

  • Buy/offer nutritious foods
  • Lactation room
  • Give employees permission to walk/talk for conference calls and meetings.

Fitwel is a certification system created by the CDC. It answers the question “of all the things you can do to your space, what are the most impactful?”.

Leigh tells us the story of what inspired her book, “The Healthy Workplace”. She was working too much for 5-6 months and couldn’t rally. Her option was quit or take a sabbatical. She took a sabbatical, did research for her book and took care of her health. Leigh started connecting with wellness professionals and saw the overlap.

There were two companies that stood out to Leigh when she was doing her book research – Motley Fool and Next Jump.

She offers her opinion on the open office environment and the best examples. Leigh makes a good point about cube land…you have visual privacy but no acoustic privacy (we actually talk louder). Our work environment needs to match our behaviors.

Leigh’s #1 book recommendation: An Everyone Culture

She talks about being on the board for a new non-profit, Global Women 4 Wellbeing and leaves us with her tangible tip for employers to enhance the health and wellness of their employees.

Links Mentioned:

Center for the Advancement of Well-Being

Fitwel

Human Performance Institute

The Healthy Workplace (Leigh’s book)

Global Women 4 Wellbeing

Apps – Brain FM and Buddhify

leighstringer.com

Full Bio:

Leigh Stringer, LEED AP, is a workplace strategy expert and researcher whose work has been covered recently by BBC News, The Globe and Mail, Fortune, CNN and Good Morning America (more buzz here). She works for EYP, an architecture, engineering and building technology firm.  She is the author of two bestselling books, The Green Workplace and The Healthy Workplace.

Leigh is currently collaborating with Harvard University’s School of Public Health, the Center for Active Design in New York, and the AIA DC Chapter on Health and Well-being to create new tools to connect like minds and to blur the boundaries across industries in order to advance our improve our well-being at work.  She is a regular contributor to Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution Blog and Work Design Magazine and hosts her own blog, LeighStringer.com.

Leigh is on the board of directors of a new non-profit, Global Women for Wellbeing, an organization that aims to give women a voice to create better health and wellbeing for themselves, their businesses, and their communities.