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Fitwel…Simple?!

On the surface, Fitwel seems ‘simple’. It is known as the younger sister of the WELL Building standard and a ‘simple’ win. There are no preconditions that need to be met in order to gain a Fitwel certification and you can choose the standards with which you want to comply. Simple, right? However, as you delve into the strategies it can sometimes seem like a never-ending task; you need floor plans, letters of consent from external parties, educational documents on furniture choices, catering guidelines that are compliant with the American Heart Association’s Guidance on meetings and events, green purchasing policies…The Centre for Active Design query every ounce of evidence that you upload even if you thought you had covered all your bases.

When I submitted my first Fitwel project they returned the evidence, having queried almost half of it, asking me to submit further evidence to support the original documents. I spent the following week annotating pictures of entryway mats and street lighting to walking routes and local farm shops. I started to worry that the project would not achieve the 2 stars my client was expecting. At the time, I kept checking in with myself, questioning if I knew what I had got myself in for – why were Fitwel making this so impossible for me? Why were they undermining me? I am a huge advocate for Fitwel and love the creativity it brings out in people – so why was it so difficult for me to get them on the side? Wasn’t this supposed to be ‘simple’?

360 Workplace were lucky enough to speak with the COO of the Centre for Active Design (CfAD) to ask why they had queried so much of our evidence and who also provided us with a chance to raise our concerns with the guidance offered. Unsurprisingly, we all came to the same conclusion that the building would achieve it’s 2 Star Fitwel rating – we were both approaching the subject from different angles. The Centre for Active Design don’t plan on catching anyone out, they just have to be strict with the standard otherwise it would lose its value. I find it comforting that the CfAD are so strict - it makes the standard robust, thoroughly audited and stops anyone being able to "fake it". They detail out the evidence that you need to provide, and the simple fact is you cannot cut any corners. I do not mean to say that anyone can do this - it is achievable for anyone who finds it interesting and is passionate about the needs of the standard and is willing to put in the hours. I think it is possible for someone who is organised and is willing to follow the rules – you can’t be stubborn with Fitwel.

Following the advice that the CfAD gave me at our meeting, I was able to submit the further evidence and that project is the first Fitwel Certified building outside of London and the first Multi-Tennant building to be certified in Europe.

My advice to anyone looking into these Wellbeing certification schemes would be as follows:

  1. Seek expert advice. As Fitwel Ambassadors, we live and breathe the standard. We can perform an initial review of your building/office space to get an idea of where you currently stand, where you want to be and realistically where you could be.
  2. Are you all in? Fitwel can simply be a tick box exercise or it can be a chance to change some behaviours in your office. Decide what you want to get out of this as that will dictate which strategies you will go for and the budget you will set aside in order to comply.
  3. Think inside the box… sometimes! We have occasionally found that the solutions to our problems have been right in front of us all along – it doesn’t have to be an expensive extravagant idea at all.

I can’t see any negatives in creating more office spaces that are compliant with Fitwel. Chances are, if you walked into a Fitwel certified office space/building, you would want to work there – who wouldn’t? Daylight, healthy food options, views of nature, wellness activities, active workstations, walking trails close by, tobacco-free site and a gorgeous stairwell to name but a few. I believe the Fitwel standard is something that all interiors should comply with – happy office = happy employees. It’s as simple as that.

By Saskia Lorrison

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