Moving Beyond Green Office – Health and Wellbeing as the New Norm

With the rent in Hong Kong being one of the highest in the world, finding a suitable office space is a formidable challenge, let alone creating better and healthier workplace. Yet, as increasing scientific evidence shows the link between workplace design and the health and productivity of employees, it is time to take a deeper look into workplace design.
Hong Kong is known for the grinding work culture, according to an earlier global survey by UBS, the average working hours of Hong Kong topped the list of 71 cities, which equals to about 50.1 hours each week. Another survey by Regus, an office space provider, found that 20 per cent of people spend four to six hours working overtime each week, and another 19 per cent put up in up to eight hours extra. With that long time spending in offices, perhaps a healthy workplace deserves more attention of everyone. In UK, 10.4 million work days are lost due to stress in one year, with an employee missing an average of 24 work days per annum. While in Hong Kong, 32 per cent of working people are classed as having unsatisfactory mental health, based on the data by the government and NGOs. Clearly, a healthier office should be a pressing issue for both businesses and public authorities.
On a more positive note, corporations around the world start to grasp and ride on the growing trends on workplace wellness. It is not a mere coincidence that the trend is booming along emphasis on health and wellbeing in the building sector. According to CBRE, there are five major trends driving the growth of workplace wellness:
(1) Employees are living and working longer
(2) Declining health
(3) Key skills are hard to find
(4) A growing awareness of stress and mindfulness
(5) Technology is making it easier for people to monitor and manage their health
Providing greenery is perhaps one of the most common approaches in workplace wellness. There are multiple benefits, including reducing stress, increasing productivity, reducing sickness and absence rates, creating more appealing workspaces, purifying air, reducing noise levels and most of all, boosting creativity. Contrary to the office blocks built in the past decades, many newly completed office buildings would incorporate greenery. The greenery will also alleviate the urban heat island effect and create a pleasant and healthy environment for the surrounding community.
As we spend 90% of our time indoors, buildings play a much bigger role in the quality of life for individuals and for the community by and large. In Hong Kong, the BEAM Plus assessment, recognised and certified by the HKGBC, is the leading initiative to offer assessments of building sustainability performance in Hong Kong. It offers a comprehensive set of performance criteria for wide-ranging sustainability issues over the lifecycle of a building development, namely planning, designing, construction, management and operation stage of a building.
More than 500 projects in Hong Kong now have undergone BEAM Plus assessment. To find out more BEAM Plus Platinum and Gold projects, please visit BEAM Plus Online Exhibition:
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