Stephanie Cox, NCIDQ, RID, CHID, ASID

Do these questions ever cross your mind?

  • Is it healthier to go to the office or stay home for work?
  • Are the buildings we use daily contributing to our sickness?
  • Is the built environment helping us prevent illness?
  • Does the built environment have any impact on our health?
  • Would I be healthier working from home all the time?
  • Is my home healthier than my office?


If you are like me, beginning another year living and working in this pandemic, I would venture to say yes. I have always had these thoughts but not in the context or magnitude as I do now. So, what has changed? Have I shifted my focus and priorities? Simply put, yes. Somewhere down the road of soaking up all the knowledge my peers and mentors had to offer, moving up the ladder in roles with increasing responsibilities, focusing on production and efficiency, and surviving work and home life during a pandemic, I am realizing I have lost the focus on what fuels me and my team for long term health and wellness.

While some can say the pandemic has given us more flexibility through work from home scenarios that have not always been previously offered. The same can be argued that we have lost some “work-life balance.” The lines have been blurred more than ever. My time saved on a commute has turned into more time to work. My time to get ready in the morning has been shortened and rushed so I can jump online very quickly after starting my day. Consideration for what is my time vs. the client’s/employer’s time has been stretched. Expectations for how quickly we respond to requests have been expedited. Sure, we can designate time slots in the day/week and apply common time-management practices but with connection through smart phones, laptop and social media, are we ever really disconnected?

How do we recharge ourselves? Wait, why do I need to recharge? Am I that “burned out?” Is everyone else “burned out?” Shouldn’t we be enjoying time outside of work to the fullest instead of recuperating? How can we decrease guilt for shifting focus back where we feel the priority should be? How can we set clear boundaries? Can my regular environments support my mental and physical wellness more? Who or what can help us see the whole picture and not just one piece?

Sorry for all the questions, but this is truly what’s been happening in my brain. One question leads to another, and another and another! Can anyone relate? As you can imagine, my curiosity took me to search online for ideas after revisiting some company policies/offerings. Sure, my company has a wellness program in which I participate and there are many wellness experts providing recommendations on making deliberate changes in our routine to help with the concerns mentioned but those items alone do not seem to be enough. What are we doing as a collaborative design community to set people and businesses up for success? What does society think about this right now?


LEED for instance, or others, had to be done in combination with it. The answer is that it is not a replacement but, rather, a complement to LEED according to the GBRI website. Where LEED is more focused on energy and resource efficiency, WELL takes off from there and seeks to monitor the impact of the built environment on our health and wellness to motivate individuals to want a better surrounding and healthier lifestyle. It is a fairly new standardized system but backed by years of research and development. The new WELL v2 focuses on 10 core concepts: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind and Community and it is gaining more popularity. According to their website, www.wellcertified.com, they are “leading a global movement transforming health and well-being with their people-first approach to buildings, organizations and communities.”

Ok WELL, you have got MY attention!! The more I think about where I am right now, I come back to the same mantra: I want to thrive, not merely survive! I want to be present for my job and succeed but that cannot be my entire identity, right? I have family and friends that need me too! Oh, and guess what…I owe it to myself to be healthy, fulfilled and productive! Why is this so hard?! Why would we not apply this thinking to all aspects of our lives? So, I’m challenging myself to dig deeper–to take the journey and see how the WELL principals can impact my life and the lives of those around me. I hope to be surprised by the amount of people and businesses already jumping on-board and, who knows, maybe this sparks an interest in you to more intently listen to the questions in your mind, embrace them and seek solutions