I don't know about you, but I cannot wait to get back to our London office. I miss the people that make work fun; the camaraderie from Friday night beers; the gossip and I really miss the coffee. Most of us have got used to working at home, but it can still be a challenge. I have four people in my house and a dog—and it's the dog that frequently drives me nuts with his constant yapping and barking at, well, anything (birds, planes, flies). So, like many others, I want to get back to the office and see people around me when working. As the shadow of Covid 19 begins to pass—and it has in the UK—the challenge for leaders is how they get their workforce back to work in a safe and orderly way. More importantly, how can leaders inspire the confidence and trust people need to have so they want to return to work?
To this end, I hosted a fascinating Webinar: Smarter and Safer Ways to Reopen Buildings with a chap well versed in the answers. His name is Joe Allen, and he is an Assistant professor at Harvard's School of Public Health. Joe is a leading expert on healthy buildings and urban resilience (his expertise focuses on exposure and risk science, and he's an much quoted expert on workplace health and safety). If you watch him on the webinar, you can understand why he's well placed to answer the questions about how leaders can make work buildings safe and inspire trust and confidence. I can give you the tech angle of Cognizant's smarter buildings offerings and how these offerings help to mitigate risk (dashboard insights fuelled by sensors, devices and cameras; new data-based workflows that monitor ventilation rates, enable thermal scanning, enforce distance rules, even to ensure hand-washing compliance etc.,). Still, it was Joe that provided a deeper level of context why smarter, healthier buildings matter now more than ever.
According to Joe, we are an indoor species. We spend 90% of our lives inside. You can make a simple calculation by taking your age and multiplying it by 0.9. This means that I've spent a staggering 45 years of my life inside! According to the reams of research on the matter, better indoor environments ultimately lead to better decision making from the people that occupy them. To that end, we should always be checking the health of our buildings- and in the way we use KPIs to measure work, we should deploy a range of health performance indicators (HPIs) to measure the places where work gets done. These HPIs can focus on ventilation rates so we can understand how they dilute the air of contaminants (such as droplets from a virus). For example, real time sensors can measure carbon dioxide as a proxy for the ventilation rate, and ensure the building is performing optimally for the people that use it. We can finally make our workplaces smart as well as healthy.
The webinar made a strong case why Covid should be used as a catalyst for making workplaces not just healthier, but more sustainable. If you want to calculate the true costs of a healthy building strategy, then look at the benefits that show up across the enterprise. Joe made a compelling point that building performance drives human performance, which in turn drives business performance. The return from investment from a healthy building strategy therefore shows up in the metrics that track hiring, retention, productivity, and brand capital. This goes way beyond the present challenge of Covid. One of the questions asked on the webinar was who was responsible for a healthy building strategy? Answer: Everyone. Rather than me write-up the webinar- please watch it here. Stay safe.