Ten environmental factors to improve Health, Wellbeing and Productivity Part 2

In our previous blog we provided an introduction the ten quantitative and qualitative factors outlined in the recent Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Retail report.

Many of the factors influencing Health, Wellbeing and Productivity are qualitatively defined, such as engagement, morale, family, identity, and transparency. Is it harder to make the case to decision makers to respond to these factors without associated metrics to judge the intervention?

There has been some recent dispute over the maxim if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, you can’t improve it. The concern is that this maxim implies qualitative factors that aren’t measured are unimportant. Paul Zac1 explains Drucker’s approach was much more nuanced. He believed measuring results and performance is critical but he also argued the importance of “the relationship with people, the development of mutual confidence, the identification of people, the creation of a community … it cannot be measured or easily defined”. Zac argues that when it comes to people, not everything that goes into being effective can be captured by some kind of metric.

Some of these qualitative factors have significant productivity outcomes. For example, Engage for success2 figures show that companies with the highest perceived engagement had twice the annual net profit of those with the lowest perceived engagement. Even the most seemingly intangible of the factors such as community engagement have clearly demonstrated health and wellbeing outcomes. The Mental Health Foundation’s pocket guide Doing good does you good3 promotes altruism for mental health. It explains that helping others promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness to reduce stress and boost the immune system.

The metrics themselves are not the answer but the tool to enable desired outcomes. It is the role of designers to synthesise the evidence, relevant metrics, standards and guidance to achieve an optimum designed environment. This may involve establishing qualitative design guidelines or developing metrics.

In the emerging Health, Wellbeing and Productivity space, we must be careful to regularly review the environmental metrics and guidelines against emerging research, technology, and ongoing occupant feedback and in doing so, remember the people in people-centred design.

To find out more about how our design and engineering expertise can help create healthier and more productive environments for you and your organisation, visit our Health, Wellbeing and Productivity page.

10 Environmental factors to improve health, wellbeing and productivity


1 Zac, P (2013) Measurement Myopia. Drucker Institute. Available: http://www.druckerinstitute.com/2013/07/measurement-myopia/.  Last Accessed 24 February 2016.
2  Engage for Success (2013) Available: engageforsuccess.org/nailing-the-evidence. Last Accessed 24 February 2016.
3 Mental Health Foundation: Doing Good Does You Good. Available: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/doing_good_pocket_guide.pdf. Last Accessed 24 February 2016.

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