A healthy workplace environment starts with the individual. In this episode, Elizabeth Nelson and Sabine Ehm walk through the steps to creating one.
Our healthy office design expert guest
Elizabeth Nelson is the Co-Founder and Head of Innovation at Smart Building Certification. She is also the author of The Healthy Office Revolution: A true story of burnout, a wake-up call & better working through science. She considers herself a ‘disruptor’, looking to shake up the way we work.
Elizabeth is a writer, researcher, and entrepreneur, running two businesses and diving into research along the way. In 2020, she co-founded Smart Building Certification, looking to create better sustainable workplace ecosystems. We see efforts to find a way to bring together these industries in a way that improves work spaces, changes business models, and makes them more competitive.
In her book, Elizabeth shares a very personal story from her 20s. She faced burnout and was on a mission to prove we can do things better in the workplace. She believes we can change the way we work if we start with the individual.
Listen to these clips to learn more about Elizabeth’s approach to creating a healthy workplace environment.
Rest is vital for healthy working
“I’ve worked like crazy all week, and I’m not coming into the office today. I’m staying in my pajamas, I’m sleeping until 12, and I’m not available. ” – Elizabeth Nelson
While working at an advertising agency, Elizabeth often heard that she was ‘too nice for this’. In other words, her personality wasn’t fit for the industry. Afterwards, Sabine expresses how unfortunate it is that we are often not allowed to be nice in business to be taken seriously. Elizabeth goes on to describe some of her colleagues as diva-ish. After working hard, they would announce their absence from the office to recover.
“That moment of saying I’ve given so much more than expected, and now I’m going to rest is important.” Overextending ourselves and working 40+ hour weeks is absurd. “There are dips and flows, and that’s how people work.”
Inclusivity in sustainable workplaces
“There’s so much that we’re doing wrong with the way that we’re working now. Anything that we play around with will probably be an improvement.” – Elizabeth Nelson
Whenever someone asks Elizabeth what needs to change, she says everything. And, it starts with the individual. Each person should learn what work style suits them best, and companies must value it. For example, Elizabeth speaks of chronotypes. “We shouldn’t have to set an alarm in the morning. If you do, it means you’re waking up too early”. Everyone is different, and some people function better at certain hours. Forcing ourselves to work through hours when our bodies are craving sleep can be similar to having constant jet lag.
“[We must] learn who we are, and fight for that”. Companies must build environments that support every type of person. Another example of an undervalued group is introverts. They are overwhelmingly underrepresented in the workplace. They are often also a later chronotype, creating a “pool of people who are under a lot more stress at the office”.
Technology’s role in improving the workplace
“Technology is one of the best tools we can use to study what’s going on in the office.” – Elizabeth Nelson
“Are we working in a sustainable way? Is our business model actually utilizing the space and time that we have possible for creating sustainable workplaces? How can we improve?” The future of CRE relies on technology. Measuring what’s going on will allow companies to gain insight in a way they haven’t been able to before. And, “anything that you measure will invariably improve”.
There is no cookie-cutter workplace; the design should be “for those people at that time”. In this clip, Elizabeth explains how through Smart Building Certification, companies have started seeing the data and coming up with incredible solutions. Business models have changed, space utilization has shifted, and even the way companies discuss the issue has changed.
Conclusion for a healthy workplace environment
Understanding and valuing how each individual works will lead to a healthier workplace. Being able to set boundaries and expectations is important. And, the #1 way that companies will be able to understand how their healthy office space is being used is through data. Viewing and measuring workplace data will undoubtedly lead to huge changes in the industry.
Listen to this and other Workplace Leader podcast episodes.
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