Millennials Bring Health and Wellness to the Workplace

Millennials, Health, Wellness, Workplace
Thornton Tomasetti office lounge | Photo by Benjamin Grimes
Millennials, Health, Wellness, Workplace
Thornton Tomasetti office lounge | Photo by Benjamin Grimes

By Kena David, BCCI Construction Company

This article will also appear in The VIEW, the quarterly newsletter of Commercial Real Estate Women San Francisco (CREW SF). CREW SF’s mission is to develop and advance women as leaders in the commercial real estate industry. It is dedicated to changing business’ gender trends and closing the parity gap by giving women in real estate the support, resources, and opportunities they need to connect, influence, and lead. For chapter news, events and membership information visit

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he millennial generation is the first generation to grow up with mobile phones and ready access to the Internet. They’ve had the luxury of answers to virtually any question at their fingertips. Their lives have always been digital and connected.

Recent changes in the workplace have come in large part from millennials asking questions and challenging the status quo. Questions like “Why do only private offices have windows?” or “Why is my office building located so far from a train stop?” or “Why am I so tired after sitting at my desk all day?” Moreover, continued advances in technology have made it easier to work faster, more efficiently, and in many different settings.

This generation—now the largest in American history—has proved to be the impetus for many changes in the workplace, including the way buildings and offices are designed, operated, and marketed. The influx of millennials into the workplace and their affinity for technology has also shifted the way in which we think about our work environment. Thus the real estate industry has seen a movement toward open office plans that inspire collaboration and offer flexibility and versatility, as well as workspaces that are in closer proximity to public transportation hubs, and an increase in urban-suburban communities. The classic American suburb with a long commute to the office is less appealing to millennials, and the 9-to-5 workday has shifted, with flexible schedules and remote working options becoming the norm.

The worlds of architecture, construction, and real estate have grown and adapted to meet these challenges put forth by millennials. Known for being civic-minded and environmentally conscious, millennials often make work and lifestyle choices that align with their values. For example, the well-known LEED certification established by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) is increasingly a factor when millennials choose a place to live or work. (LEED certification is an indication that a company or building owner is highly attuned to how its physical operations affect the environment.)

Questioning and challenging how and why things function a certain way is one of the greatest qualities of millennials. Many millennial-owned businesses are now examining aspects of the built environment related to productivity and wellness in the workplace, and large tech companies—with an average employee age around 27—have begun looking at how different aspects of offices affect health. Previously, employees have not had the opportunity to advocate for elements such as increased access to windows to bring daylight to the space, which boosts happiness, reduces stress, and increases productivity. Millennials also want comfortable lighting, access to amenities, nutritious food, and healthy air. As a result, many of these features are being incorporated throughout the real estate market—in offices, retail, and residences alike.

Millennial-inspired attention to matters of health in the workplace is reflected in a new certification program dedicated human health and wellness in buildings. The WELL Building Standard has married best practices in the built environment with medical research around what makes people happy, healthy, and productive while spending time indoors. It is the first certification of its kind to holistically integrate specific conditions into architecture, design, and construction to enhance the health and well-being of building occupants. International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) developed this standard to uphold human sustainability and to transform schools, homes, offices, and other indoor facilities into healthy environments. The WELL Building Standard measures seven categories relevant to occupant health: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Certification requires a passing score in each of the categories through design and performance verification.

The millennial generation, which has also been called “Generation Me,” may be viewed as self-focused. However, millennials’ expectation of immediate answers to questions and that technology simplify their lives both at home and in the workplace has spurred growth across the real estate, construction, and design industries. Furthermore, curiosity and attitudes about the environmental and social responsibility have created new ways to enhance human health and well-being in the built environment.

About the Author
With expertise in sustainability advising for USGBC’s LEED and IWBI’s WELL Building certifications, Kena David provides key sustainability leadership and team expertise for BCCI’s green building projects and a commitment to the USGBC NCC Building Health Initiative. Kena has completed dozens of sustainable projects under LEED for commercial interiors, new construction, and core and shell rating systems, as well as the first LEED v4 for commercial interiors Platinum certifications in the nation. Additionally she is currently working on one of the first ground-up WELL-certified buildings through the IWBI program, as well as an interiors project that is targeting WELL certification. Her experience includes sustainable design strategy evaluation and cost analysis and LEED and WELL project management. Kena also provides educational training on the successful implementation of LEED and workshops on various sustainability frameworks.

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