Tori serves as a Manager at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the organization leading the global movement to transform our buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive.
Tori provides technical assistance and customer support to sustainability consultants (WELL APs),industry professionals and WELL project teams across the US, Australia and New Zealand as they create healthier spaces, buildings and communities through WELL Certification and the WELL Health-SafetyRating.
Tori also leads WELL’s global sector development for coworking and hospitality, providing high-touch support to meet the needs of these space types, organisations and occupants. This work is vital to creating healthier environments where we live, work, play and learn.
About this episode
Tori Shepherd from the International WELL Building Institute talks about the massive shift to healthy built environments and actionable steps companies can take to ensure they are providing healthy workplaces for employees to return to.
What you’ll learn
- What’s new in the WELL movement? What problems is WELL currently trying to solve with design and facilities operations?
- How is IWBI taking a holistic approach to workspaces?
- The 10 Concepts that comprise the WELL Building Standard
- What are restorative spaces?
- Creating People-First Coworking Spaces
- How coworking locations can support mental health
Intro [00:00:00] We know that additionally, organizations are facing more pressure than ever to track and report their environmental, social and governance performance to attract not only investors but now comply with growing regulations. They need to ensure that their corporate real estate portfolio supports their social sustainability goals. So, we have 10 concepts that comprise the well, building standard mind community movement, water, air, light, thermal comfort, nourishment, sound and materials. We’ve done the research so that you can make a difference.
Ceci Amador [00:00:48] Hi, and welcome to the Future of Work podcast by Allwork.Space. My name is Ceci Amador de San Jose, and today I’m looking forward to chatting with Tori Shepherd. Tori serves as a manager at the International Well Building Institute, the organization leading the global movement to transform our buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive. She also leads Wells global sector development for coworking and hospitality. She provides high touch support to meet the needs of these spaces, organizations and their occupants. Tory, welcome.
Tori Shepherd [00:01:24] Hi, thank you for having me today. Excited to meet more people that tune into this webcast and share some information about well.
Speaker 3 [00:01:32] Awesome.
Ceci Amador [00:01:32] Yeah, we’re excited to have you. I remember when, WELL, kind of like broke into the coworking industry and we had the first kind of co-working operator that was, WELL certified. It was a huge deal. I want to start by asking you if you can walk us a little bit through what the WELL building institute is. What does a WELL standard stand for and what does it take to achieve that certification?
Tori Shepherd [00:01:57] Yeah, definitely. So, for anyone who is not familiar with either BPI or the well building standard, we’ve been setting the standard for what health leadership looks like for a bit over a decade now. So, we’re at the center of a global demand surge for health solutions that we’re seeing today, and we just announced that we’ve tripled the building area, applying well offerings in the past year from one billion square feet to more than three billion. So that means that while strategies are now supporting health and wellbeing of an estimated thirteen point six million people in thirty-three thousand plus locations in nearly 100 countries. So exciting milestone that we’ve crossed today, meaning that our footprint is just helping that many people. It’s fantastic.
Ceci Amador [00:02:43] Yeah, I can imagine, and I think it’s great. So, I do believe that the shift to healthier buildings had been happening for a little bit. But I’m very, very glad to hear that kind of like the pandemic and people being increasingly more aware about how buildings and the built environment impacts for health. It’s kind of like pushing more organizations and more companies to figure out a way to provide healthy environments for four people.
Tori Shepherd [00:03:14] Yeah, definitely. I think COVID has changed that conversation from a nice to have to a must have.
Ceci Amador [00:03:20] Yes. And I think that because people, I mean, government lockdowns and social distancing and all of that, I think it was the perfect timing also for companies or landlords or property developers to undergo all that different. I’m assuming changes and renovations that must take place to get well certified, as no one was going into the office, at least not in huge numbers.
Tori Shepherd [00:03:46] Yeah, exactly.
Tori Shepherd [00:03:47] So speaking about kind of like the changes and the shift to healthier environments, what are some of the. So, I think there’s kind of two different types of like organizations. So, there’s kind of like new construction that is just like from the get-go, incorporating the like healthier alternatives into the entire construction design and layout process. But then what about older buildings? Can you walk us a little bit through the components that make a, well, environment? And what are some strategies that leaders are real estate developers, landlords or tenants can take to get that certification, whether they’re starting from scratch or they’re already in that built an older building more space?
Tori Shepherd [00:04:34] Yeah, definitely. And we do say that we have one well for all types of buildings, whether they’re new construction or existing. I recently supported a building five hundred Collins in Melbourne that was 70 years old and just achieved while platinum certification. So, it can be done for existing spaces as well. And, of course, across different sectors and in terms of how it works well, applies the science of how physical and social environments impact human health, wellbeing and performance. So, the standard is comprised of policy operations and design strategies that are focused on how you can put health at the center of decision making for your business. So, we have 10 concepts that comprise the well, building standard mind community movement, water, air light, thermal comfort, nourishment, sound and materials. We outline building an organization level intervention that make the air cleaner to breathe or water healthier to drink lighting to support circadian rhythms, healthy food, accessible policies to support mental health, DIY initiatives and more. We like to say that we’ve done the research so that you can make a difference.
Ceci Amador [00:05:46] I love that, and I really like how the institute, so it’s not only about air and movement, you know, the physical elements, but a huge part of it has been mental health, which so yes, COVID has brought to the limelight the importance of air quality in buildings. But as more people worked from home and they’re facing a lot of extra stress, just from heavier workload, financial stress and working with others and at home not being able to keep those blurred lines, I feel like mental health has become like this huge priority for organizations. So, I like to talk to you a little bit about the mental health component of well, how can buildings, how can spaces contribute to the mental health of the end user?
Tori Shepherd [00:06:38] Mental health is one of the keys focuses of workplace design today. And one of our key initiatives at the while building an international, well, building institute. Even before the pandemic, about twenty-to-twenty five percent of adults experienced a common mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse each year. Research out of the Queensland Center for Mental Health Research estimates the prevalence of major depressive disorder rose twenty eight percent globally and anxiety disorders rose twenty six percent globally. This corresponds to fifty-three million people with major depressive disorder and seventy-six million people with anxiety disorders due to the COVID 19 pandemic alone.
Tori Shepherd [00:07:21] So clearly, there is a huge need for workplaces to not only support mental health issues when they occur, but also to simply foster a holistic state of well-being for their employees to build those skills, to build resilience considering immense challenges and stressors of today. Of course, this is by no means an easy solve. It’s critical for organizations to take a holistic approach, looking at a combination of policies, design and culture shifts to drive that change in a holistic and lasting manner.
Ceci Amador [00:07:57] So design wise, at least in that aspect, what are some elements of design that people might not think about when they think about mental health and the built environment supporting mental health?
Tori Shepherd [00:08:11] Yeah, there are many ways that the well building standard promotes facilitating mental health through design and policies. Things that come to mind just quickly are, of course, biophilia as an access to nature, proper acoustics, thermal comfort, access to a diversity of spaces that meet the needs of diverse workplaces in terms of access, hyper and hypersensitivity in other realms. But one design feature that I think really stands out to me now in the well, building standard is Mind feature MW07 Restorative Spaces, which requires a well project to support access to at least one space that promotes restoration and relief from mental fatigue or stress.
Tori Shepherd [00:08:53] And I can give you two just quick, impactful examples of that during practice.
Ceci Amador [00:08:58] We’d love that. Yeah.
Tori Shepherd [00:08:59] Great. So, the first, which I love this example is from a Toki corporation in Japan. They installed what they called a mind fitness room, which is a meditation room for their employees to take meditation breaks throughout the day. And it attributed this room to a great rise in productivity and workplace culture. And this was ahead of the curve by offering this back in 2019. And I do think there’ll be a significant shift where employers will make more of an effort to provide those types of amenities, either through physical spaces or access to apps or services. And the other example that I also love is from first sent to your investors, which is an office in Sydney, Australia, they’re restorative. Space was a quiet room which had dimmable lights, had plants, optional music and even can be reserved on an online booking system. They installed signage that encourages staff to use the room for prayer, as well as other non-work-related purposes. And when I visited this space during their well certification journey, the facilities and office manager stopped me to tell her how moved some of their employees were by this offering. One man even stopped her in the hallway to tell her how appreciative he was that the organization would care so much for him to provide a prayer room because he was Muslim and use the room multiple times a day for prayer. So.
Ceci Amador [00:10:34] That’s incredible when you’re talking about this kind of like restorative spaces today, all must fit the same criteria, you know, dimmable lights like no technology or is that more up to the organization?
Tori Shepherd [00:10:51] Yeah, there is some flexibility within it. I would say that is intentional to meet the needs of the occupants in your space. So of course, you can do some sort of analysis and studies to see are their people with certain religious needs that need the space? Are there mothers that might need a lactation room or just a general employee that might need a quick sleep or break, depending on the hours that they’re working? So, there are some criteria in terms of access to outlets. Of course, we know that nursing mothers need that type of amenity to plug in their appliances.
Tori Shepherd [00:11:28] But also one of the requirements is dimmable lights and quiet spaces. So, you can always combine uses, but it cannot be a space that has any type of work function to it. It must be a restorative space.
Ceci Amador [00:11:43] The reason I ask is because I think this was 2018 or 2017 that I read that there’s organization Cat implement that there was a break room, but it was literally a break room so people could go there, you know, to like, relieve stress or anger. And they feel like they had like a bunch of stuff in there that people could like, smash or break. So.
Tori Shepherd [00:12:06] I guess they don’t have a well, intervention, but.
Ceci Amador [00:12:11] So yeah, that’s why I asked if it kind of had to be like, you know, this quieter room that people would normally think of when they think they need a break and to kind of like tune everything out of their systems and …
Tori Shepherd [00:12:27] Just one thing to add there. I think one of the biggest criteria as well is just doing an analysis to understand demand in your space. So, it’s great to have a restorative room. But if there’s 10 people that need it and only one person can access it at a time, that’s an issue. So that is one of the other criteria that we implement in terms of reviewing plans for spaces and having that restorative need met.
Ceci Amador [00:12:51] Awesome, and then is their kind of like an. I don’t know if you like square footage requirement, but how does it work them for kind of like the larger employers or, for example, flock flexible workspaces and co-working spaces where this kind of like a higher number of people that are working there on a day-to-day basis?
Tori Shepherd [00:13:12] Yeah. So, we have a minimum square footage requirement for her employees up to a specific amount. And then after that threshold for very large organizations, we would trust that it was in the organization’s best interest to kind of undergo a quality study to then proposed to us what they think would be the recommended amount. We don’t want to have a massive organization with too many restorative rooms, and that wouldn’t necessarily be a terrible issue. But once it does cross that threshold, we can work with organizations to help find that sweet spot.
Ceci Amador [00:13:46] Amazing. And then you lead, well, global sector for co-working and hospitality. I’d like to talk a little bit more about that. How is the process, or at least in your experience, is the process to getting this certification different for a company headquarters versus a co-working space? Who’s the end user? I mean, it varies a whole lot more than with like a regular headquarters from a company.
Tori Shepherd [00:14:15] Yeah. So, I would say yes and no. The good thing about well is that we’ve worked with so many diverse sectors and organizations around the world to make a program that truly is flexible and customizable to meet the needs of every project. So, there are over one hundred and twenty interventions in the, well, building standard.
Tori Shepherd [00:14:33] There are some that are mandatory and some that are optional and are associated with points. The more points that you can accrue, of course, you can reach well, bronze, silver, gold or platinum is the highest level, but within that, there are different scopes and applicability that you can read directly in the feature language. So, if you were a co-working operator and you were a tenant within a commercial building, of course, there are things that might be outside of your scope. One of the common issues with co-working is understanding how much control that co-working operator has over the HVAC system, so we can work with you to say, OK, let’s see what’s in your remit. What can we control and what can we reach out to the landlord to see if there is wiggle room there to work collectively with the landowner?
Tori Shepherd [00:15:22] Of course, if there is, on the other hand, a landowner or building owner that is pursuing, well, certification for the core space, their scope would be different, of course, than a commercial or corporate tenant. So, we work with our clients directly, and you can see in the feature language that that distinction would be clearly mapped out. And then also, you can relate to our well coaching team to say these are our goals for, well, certification. Can you point us to the features that will help us achieve those goals?
Ceci Amador [00:15:53] That’s amazing. I think it’s very important for co-working and flexible workspace operators right now to incorporate all of these kind of like healthier elements into their spaces, especially as you know, the return to the office and people and companies that you can work from home, where you can work from the company headquarters or working near home, co-working operators will need to lure workers back into the office and not just any office, but that particular co-working location. And there are going to be they’re going to have to compete with traditional headquarters and organizations that have more resources to kind of like, personalize maybe some aspects of the workplace. So, in your experience with the whole movement and the shift towards healthier built environments?
Ceci Amador [00:16:44] What are some ways that co-working space operators some strategies that they can implement to create a people first workplace location?
Tori Shepherd [00:16:55] Yeah, it’s a great question. And I think for the today’s environment, one of the biggest things is transparency. Both companies and employees directly are looking for what spaces are doing to ensure their safety. So, for instance, if you can provide clear communication to your members or prospective members to say what the air filtration is being, you are in the space if there’s proper ventilation in place, if there’s HEPA or more filters in place, but also our other members are required to show vaccine status or wear masks. How many people are allowed in the space at one time? People just want access to this information so that they can make the most informed decision. Of course, going a step further would be earning a WELLL certification that’s third party verified to show that you have not only talking the talk, but you’re walking the walk.
Tori Shepherd [00:17:53] In addition to that, of course, I think all of us have experienced the great joys of working from home, but also the challenges so it wouldn’t be lost, I’m sure on the audience for this podcast to say that people want to go back to some sort of office environment. People want that additional structure to their workdays to be able to have that work home separation, also to have access to printers and office supplies, conference rooms. And one of the biggest things that I think is a huge disparity in terms of their remote working set up is proper ergonomic workstations. So, I know that a lot of my friends, whether they were in New York City, Melbourne, Los Angeles, all over the world. Some had great sit stand desks. Others were working on a couch, others on a kitchen table.
Tori Shepherd [00:18:43] So I think really communicating all the healthy interventions in a space, whether it relates directly to COVID or kind of there’s more holistic elements like ergonomics and circadian lighting and biophilia is something that will go you’ll pay dividends in attracting people to your co-working space.
Ceci Amador [00:19:05] That’s great. And what you said about ergonomics. I feel the pain. I used to have this like amazing setup and then we had to repurpose that room. This was prior to the pandemic. And then when the pandemic hit, I was back to working either from my bed or the living room couch or just like very stiff dining room chairs until eventually I just decided to set up like a tiny ish workstation and tiny corner. One of the rooms in the house. But I did get my ergonomic chair, and that’s helped a whole lot. Yeah, and it’s and it’s little things like that that I mean, some people may have known this before the pandemic and the importance of love of all of it, but I feel that now people are so much more aware of all the tiny little things that make or break a workplace experience.
Ceci Amador [00:19:58] I think ergonomics is a great one. I feel like having the right environment, I don’t know, but I think it’s harder for people to find the motivation to work when they’re working from home. I know that if there’s like chaos, visually visual chaos, like I can see clothes or I can see kind of like dishes stacked or a lot of glass that that’s going to put me off and my mind’s going to be like, I need to, you know, I want to fix that instead of focusing on the task at hand. So, I think all these elements, like you said, people are much more aware of the pains of working from home. But it’s still so comfortable and so convenient, though, that while some people do want to go back, I think it will be harder than a lot of us anticipate getting them to leave the door.
Tori Shepherd [00:20:48] Yeah, I agree. And we kind of did a survey in our own workplace. Our headquarters is in New York City, and there were a few people that requested to go into the office during the pandemic because they said, you know, I have a full house. I need some quiet. So, there’s always going to be people that do want to have that work environment. But I completely agree with you. There’s this other subset of people that say you might want to go in one to two days a week. I need to have some flexibility, or I’ve moved to a different location and I’m not near the headquarters. What can you help me? Can you connect me to a co-working operator? So, I think there’s a lot of perks that can draw people in. I know myself, even just getting out for a barista made coffee is a treat. I would love to be able to have a co-working location that had a full café. So, things like that with healthy snacks and healthy amenities, I think will help differentiate one look co-working location to another.
Ceci Amador [00:21:45] And you brought this into my next question, which is, and you mentioned it, so a lot of people moved and they’re not as close to company headquarters. And then there’s also people that maybe didn’t move, but they’re not willing to go through like a one-hour commute to go back into the office. They may be willing to commute for 15 to 20 minutes, but not beyond that. What are some things that co-working space operators can do to become an attractive and preferred solutions for employers? So, what can co-working spaces do when if they’re they want to attract kind of like enterprise clients and have the company sponsor memberships for their employees? What are some things that companies are looking at?
Tori Shepherd [00:22:29] Yeah, it’s a great question, and I’m incredibly interested in this kind of new networked office of the headquarters office, which is potentially in a downtown or CBD area, the remote working location from home. And then also this work near home future location, which I know all work, has published many articles about this topic already, so I won’t go into that. But in terms of attracting kind of the employers themselves, we are already at the well international well building institute. We work with about 100 of the Fortune 500 along with thousands of other organizations. So, these companies clearly see the value of well and we’ll be looking for ways to provide well initiatives to remote workers and satellite locations. We know that additionally, organizations are facing more pressure than ever to track and report their environmental, social and governance performance to attract not only investors, but now comply with growing regulations. Thus, they need to ensure that their corporate real estate portfolio supports their social sustainability goals. Well, of course, can play a key role in that. But my key point here is that co-working spaces have a huge opportunity to fill. This needs to demonstrate how they can support member health, culture, community environmental initiatives, et cetera, because any element of an organization will expand to their full corporate portfolio, including where they send their employees to.
Ceci Amador [00:24:03] I agree, I think that companies are increasingly waking up to this, to the well-being, to the importance of well-being, not just for four people, but for the organization at large. I mean, companies are made, after all, by people made up of people. And if they’re not doing well, then it’s not that likely that the company will do as well as it could be if they had kind of like this focus of helping people can bring their better selves to work off the top of your head. Back to mental health and wellbeing … what are five strategy or the top easiest strategies that co-working space operators and even companies at large can implement to support mental health at work beyond the restorative rooms that we already talked about today.
Tori Shepherd [00:24:53] Yeah, I mean, I think one big thing is having some sort of safety plan. I think everyone is anxious about the current situation and having info or transparency into the types of initiatives that are in place is something that can really have a big impact on mental health. In addition to that. I would say organizations more broadly having access to mental health resources is incredibly important and communicating to their employees how they can access those. So, for instance, having quarterly newsletters or emails sent around say you have access to this ERP, you can reach out to a therapist on this line. It’s anonymous, really encouraging your employees to use those mental health resources to reduce any stigma that could be associated with them. Additionally, I think access to kind of company culture is something that people are really missing. People feel incredibly isolated working from home. I know for me myself, I was working remotely before COVID even started, so we were looking for a co-working space. Me and my colleagues, based in Melbourne for a while, just to have access to networking events, to have potentially a communal yoga class once a week with others at the co-working location or, you know, drinks at five on a Friday evening. So, access to that kind of community building or water cooler chat is something that a lot of people are missing and looking for.
Ceci Amador [00:26:26] And I think that co-working space operators are uniquely positioned to kind of cater to those individuals and professionals that are searching for that community and, yeah, aspect of work, I know I mean, they’re known already for hosting events, workshops and you know, part of the pride of co-working spaces is that they help combat the loneliness isolation epidemic, especially for remote workers or freelancers. Rent for preneur. And that’s another thing. There’s like a huge market right now for that. There are so many people that sort of side gig or people that you know that they either work, they live alone. And so, they’ve been working from home for a really, long time. I have a friend that. Recently, he felt like
Ceci Amador [00:27:13] I saw this conversation we had on Saturday, and he feels I just came to the realization that I haven’t interacted with the human being in person since Tuesday. That can’t be good for you. Please go to the grocery store, go get a coffee or something, say hiding from Mumbai that I feel like when people spend so much time alone, they get used to it work on the one side, but it becomes harder for them to then relate and connect with others. And that’s such a key part of being human.
Tori Shepherd [00:27:42] Yeah, I completely agree. And it brings me back to the previous point as well about restorative spaces because I think people are really craving that kind of community building and access to social interaction. But at the same time, we’re all going to be thrown into the deep end when we go to a networking event or a conference in person for the first time. And we might need to have these small moments away in quiet space to just kind of take a deep breath and rejuvenate after kind of having that overstimulation after so much time inside.
Ceci Amador [00:28:14] I agree. I think that I mean, with everything that COVID and I feel like everything, the return to the office is still very much in the air. No one really knows what it’s going to look and feel like. And I, we were craving that, that that interaction. But I don’t know if it will overwhelm us a whole lot more. After spending almost two years away from it, it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.
Tori Shepherd [00:28:42] Yeah, I imagine it will be a long, ever-changing transition over the next couple of years.
Ceci Amador [00:28:47] I agree. Tori, we’re almost running out of time here. Is there anything else you want to add if people want to learn more about the Wealth Building Institute, how to get a certification or even where to start work and they find more information?
Tori Shepherd [00:29:01] Yeah, I would navigate to, well, sort of icon. And while you’re there, I would highly recommend you toggle over to the Resource tab. It’s up in the top bar of the screen on the right. And look at our AWP special report prevention and Preparedness, Resilience and Recovery. We launched that only a couple of months ago, but it was an initiative that we everything, everyone at the organization worked on for over a year. In addition to many, many of the 600 members on our side of the task force on COVID 19 and other respiratory infections, that report itself has four parts. It includes a deep dove into the research behind each section. Voices from various professionals. Perspectives from 12 different sectors. And observations from six key regions around the world. So, if this conversation was of interest to you, I really encourage you to look at that report and hear from experts who are much more informed on some of these other topics. And I am so pleased you spent some time on that resource.
Ceci Amador [00:30:03] Awesome. Thank you so much, Tori. Thank you, everyone, for tuning in to the future of our podcast by Allwork.Space. Remember that new episodes are released every Thursday.