Enhancing Employee Well-Being

Rachel Hodgdon is President and CEO of the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), a public benefit corporation with a mission to improve human health and well-being through people-first places. She came to IWBI after nearly a decade at the U.S. Green Building Council, where she served as Senior Vice President of Knowledge and was Founding Director of the Center for Green Schools. Under her direction, the Center published 1,000+ pages of technical guides and original research, mobilized $275B+ investments in LEED certified educational facilities, and deployed 500K+ volunteers to transform schools on every continent. A widely sought after expert and inspiring speaker, Rachel's game-changing contributions to green building have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, Parenting Magazine, FOX News, CNN, and in leading industry publications including Metropolis, Grist, and GreenBIZ. Here, she shares strategies that foster healthier work environments and overall employee well-being.

What determines the state of our health?

Our physical and social environment, where we sit and who we sit next to, has a more significant impact on our health than our lifestyle, behaviors, access to medical care, and genetics combined. When you think about it, it's pretty profound that a zip code could have a greater bearing on our health than our genetic code.

That's why we created WELL. WELL bridges what we know to what we practice, and it's the leading tool and certification for advancing health and well-being in communities, organizations, and buildings around the globe. WELL puts people at the center of everything we do. We look across all of the different ways our built environments and our social environments can impact how we feel, how we learn, how we sleep, how we play, and how we perform.

What are the categories addressed in WELL buildings?

  1. Indoor air quality

  2. Water quality

  3. Light

  4. Movement

  5. Thermal comfort

  6. Dress codes

  7. Acoustics

  8. Material health

  9. Mental health

  10. Community

How is mental health addressed?

Mental health is something that I think will be of even greater focus in the coming months. We've referred to the mental health crisis as the second wave of the pandemic. We are looking at ways organizations can support more mindful behaviors within our spaces. That could be creating spaces for meditation in offices or grieving rooms in hospitals, in addition to mental health support through employee benefit packages.

When you think about it, it's pretty profound that a zip code could have a greater bearing on our health than our genetic code.

What inspired the WELL health safety rating?

Companies, building owners, and operators were looking for instructions that responded specifically to the acute health threats related to COVID-19. They wanted things that could be done from an operations and management perspective to slow the transmission of COVID-19 inside their spaces. They also wanted a certification to show others the efforts being taken.

What resulted was the Well Health-Safety Seal that could exist as a kind of shorthand for addressing the confidence gap that exists in welcoming people back into the spaces and places where we live our lives. People were looking for a third party to verify and validate that they had done all the right things and had their work checked. That was how the Well Health-Safety Rating was born.