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Episode 121

Maintaining Workplace Health through a Pandemic by Leveraging the WELL Building Standard™

with Angela Spangler, MS, WELL Faculty, AEP

Angela Spangler, MS, WELL Faculty, AEP is Education and Healthcare sector lead at the International Well Building Institute. She is also a WELL Faculty and Associate Ergonomics Professional. In July 2020, Mike Petrusky hosted a live webinar broadcast called “Maintaining Workplace Health Through Office Design and Pandemic Preparation” where Angela discussed the WELL Building Standard™, the leading tool for advancing public health and well-being in buildings globally. Mike asked Angela about how WELL building design, operations, and policies can help workplace leaders prevent the spread of infectious disease, prepare for impact, increase resiliency, and support recovery from global health challenges like the one we’re experiencing now.

Space-Right Safe Distancing Made Simple

Connect with Angela on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/angelaspangler/

Learn more about the WELL Health Safety Rating: https://www.wellcertified.com/health-safety

Discover COVID-19 Strategies from WELL: https://resources.wellcertified.com/tools/strategies-from-the-well-building-standard-to-support-in-the-fight-against-covid-19/

Watch the full webinar video with Angela and Mike: https://www.iofficecorp.com/webinar-download-maintaining-workplace-health-through-office-design-and-pandemic-preparation

Register for future “Workplace Innovator Interactive” livestreams: https://www.iofficecorp.com/live-webinar-2020-weekly-livestream

Discover free resources and explore past interviews at: https://www.workplaceinnovator.com/

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikepetrusky/

Share your thoughts with Mike via email: podcast@iOFFICECORP.com

Read the full transcript:

Angela Spangler (00:04):

We stood up a task force to start to address the solutions and the actionable strategies that we're already recommending that might make more of a difference in times like these.

DJ Mike P (00:19):

This is the Workplace Innovator Podcast, where we talk with corporate real estate and facility management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization. This show is powered by iOFFICE, the leading employee experience-focused IWMS software that delivers real-time data and mobile tools to help you intelligently manage your digital workplace.

         Hey, everyone. Welcome to episode 121 of the Workplace Innovator Podcast. I am your host DJ Mike P, and we have another jam packed 20 minutes for you this week. In fact, it features Angela Spangler of the International WELL Building Institute. I was so excited to have someone on the show that could speak to the WELL standard and how it can be used to help workplace leaders during this pandemic. Angela had a lot to offer, I want to get right to it. Be sure to hang with us, stay tuned all the way to the end, not just for the fun podcast karaoke that I got Angela to participate in, but then Angela did go on to talk about the new WELL Health-safety Rating. She also shared with us some of the strategies being discussed on how the WELL Building Standard can help support in the fight against COVID-19. So much to cover, so little time, so check this out.

         Welcome, everybody, to another iOFFICE webinar with our incredible guest today from the International WELL Building Institute and from New York City. Welcome, Angela. How are you?

Angela Spangler (01:59):

Thank you, Mike. I'm really excited to be here today.

DJ Mike P (02:01):

We are so honored and thrilled to have you. Can't wait to hear what's going on with WELL-certified buildings and standards. It's something that we've addressed so many times through these conversations during our pandemic life, I think we're going to call it, planning to return, to work places, to facilities, to all public settings. You're not just talking about workplace, you talk about buildings of all kinds. We look forward to that, but let's hear a little bit more about your story.

         Angela Spangler, you are the director at International WELL Building Institute. What does that mean? What is it you do?

Angela Spangler (02:33):

I work on the commercial team and there are three sectors that I'm primarily responsible for in leading the growth and development of the WELL Building Standard. First is education sector, spanning both K through 12 schools and higher education institutions, the second is healthcare, and then the third is government. Beyond just that, in all my additional time, I support a lot of our global corporate clients in really realizing the value of a third-party certification system and starting to think about their real estate in a more intentional or proactive human-centered way.

DJ Mike P (03:15):

Excellent. Everyone, I want to encourage you to use the Q and A box throughout the presentation by Angela. We'll have a Q and A time at the end and we'll have some fun too, but this COVID-19 situation is certainly tragic and disruptive and scary at times, so this is hopefully going to be a comforting conversation for everyone. One thing I want to do is inspire our audience, in fact, that's something I do on the podcast each week, I ask my guests to give me an inspirational quote that might help light the way. Angela, I asked you for one before we started and you came up with a great one. Why don't you share it with us?

Angela Spangler (03:47):

Yeah. The quote that's really been guiding me through this time has been one from Nelson Mandela that it always seems impossible until it's done. I think that applies to a lot of different scenarios right now, right, like development of a vaccine, handling an increased workload, handling no workload. We, as humans, would like to have a plan and we like to have control over how we're moving about our lives. We can spiral out really easily by thinking this situation is impossible. But then sometimes you wake up and it's been four months since everything really got shifted, in the US at least, and you look back and you just start to realize how resilient you are and you start to realize that ... I think one of your recent guests was talking about the longest journey begins with a single step, right? You just need to get started.

         I told you in advance, I'm a victim of productive procrastination. Working for an organization where we are focused on healthy buildings and healthy building strategies, I've literally never been busier than this in my life. It does seem impossible at times to keep up with the demand and just keep going, but then you look back and you realize the progress that you've made and it's pretty remarkable. That's my quote, and I'm sticking to it.

DJ Mike P (05:21):

I love it, excellent. Very inspiring. I'm the same way. I'm a procrastinator, I'm not sure how productive I am at times, but I'm also a busier than ever and it is challenging. It's a rollercoaster ride, some days are good, some days aren't. I think we're settling into, as I say, kind of accepting or resigned to the fact that this is the way it's going to be. We're going to be living with COVID for a long time to come.

         I wanted to learn more because, I mentioned it earlier, a lot of my guests have said how do we know if we're making progress if there's no benchmark, if there's no standard to look to? Someone actually mentioned about a month or two ago that the WELL Building Standard could be just that beacon or that torch that we could follow through these dark times. I want to turn it over to you. Educate our audience here, I'm going to interrupt a little bit. For now, Angela, take over and we'll go from there.

Angela Spangler (06:12):

Awesome. Thank you, Mike. I'm really excited today to talk to you about the WELL Building Standard, specifically what some of its key components are and how it can be used as a resource. The standard, in its entirety, is free and available to use online. Anyone who wants to look through it, who may not be familiar, who's tuning in now or listening to a future recording, I would encourage you to check out the website, wellcertified.com. If you want to go into the next slide I can get started with-

DJ Mike P (06:47):

Well, before we do, let me say that you're talking today to an audience of facility management professionals, workplace leaders of all kinds. Talk about an opportunity during this COVID crisis, we now are being looked to for answers when it comes to the return to office, getting people back in a safe and comfortable way. These folks out there listening today are really excited to hear how these standards can help get them to where they want to be, because they're being kept up at night thinking about the employees that they care for. It's an interesting time, an interesting parallel.

Angela Spangler (07:19):

Yeah. I'm really glad that you brought that up. One of the key motivators in the WELL ecosystem is elevating the role of the facilities management team. There have been numerous people who have gone on record saying that your FM team has more impact on your health and wellbeing than your doctor, right?

DJ Mike P (07:44):

Wow.

Angela Spangler (07:45):

If you can highlight the importance of design and maintenance and just keeping a building running effectively, we're really trying to shine a light on this entire industry, saying that you all, whether you like it or not, are agents of public health. The decisions that you're making are impacting human lives. By looking to the evidence base and thinking about health in a more complete way as we do at IWBI, we really like this definition from the World Health Organization. When I ask how you are, I want you to answer in a way that indicates to me that you're not just fine, but you're thriving. We're considering your mental health, your social collaborations and connections with colleagues or others who engage in the same space, and your physical health. I like to start every presentation with this quote, just so that when we're talking about healthy buildings, we're not just talking about responses to COVID. We've been in this industry for almost a decade, research long before that, but we're thinking about health in this kind of three-way, tri-pronged approach, I would say.

DJ Mike P (08:56):

Excellent. You've got a great audience listening, who they are very much aware and they have the mindset of a holistic view of both the built environment and the employee experience.

Angela Spangler (09:06):

Awesome, yeah. WELL is built on a 10-concept framework that looks at the air quality, water quality. Nourishment strategies, like guiding mindful eating and the packaging and sizes of food and ingredient labeling, things of that extent or that nature. Lighting strategies, which talk a lot about exposure to natural daylight and views, syncing up our circadian rhythm, which is actually our sleep-wake cycles, so exposing people to really bright, appropriate light in the morning and then having light that's tuneable or dimmable, that adjusts as the day goes on. It's really an obvious example in the winter months when the days are shorter, now, the daylighting would be pretty consistent throughout the day. Movement strategies aimed at just that, getting people to be more physically active and moving throughout their space a bit more. Thermal comfort, I know thermal comfort and acoustics are always in a toss up between the most frequently complained about. I think it depends on the gender split of your office. I think it depends on if you've got sales teams sitting by legal departments, sitting by people who need heads-down focused work versus those that are really chatty.

         Those strategies are all addressed within the WELL Building Standard. The materials concept looks at all things, furniture finishes, paints, adhesives, floorings, all things that come into the space, and particularly how they impact air quality. Then the mind and the community concept, those are the two that really start to get at the mental health piece and the social wellbeing, so creating a sense of a culture of wellness. What good is a meditation room if you're expected to be seated at your desk typing away? Those types of strategies are all found.

         We can click onto the next slide. I'll mention that the five concept areas that are tested onsite are listed on this slide here. They are air, water, lighting, thermal comfort considerations, and acoustics. Not only are we indicating how these metrics all need to be tuned, but we're actually testing and ensuring that our healthy intentions are being maintained and upheld over time.

DJ Mike P (11:23):

These are the measurable standards we're getting into now, where you can actually go into a facility, measure the current state of affairs for these five categories, set a benchmark, and then with implementing new strategies and changes, we can see that moving towards a better WELL-certified type facility, right?

Angela Spangler (11:42):

Absolutely. Every WELL-certified project have to undergo performance testing onsite.

DJ Mike P (11:42):

Excellent.

Angela Spangler (11:48):

These are the five different categories that are being tested to Make sure you're hitting those marks, especially when we start to pull out all of those strategies in the WELL Building Standard that helps us support in the fight against COVID. One of the major shifts that we made as an organization was instead of launching WELL V2 from its pilot into its fully-baked standard and instead of convening our first annual conference, we stood up a taskforce to start to address the solutions and the actionable strategies that we're already recommending that might make more of a difference in times like these.

         If you click to the next slide, you'll see the eight key themes that emerged. We had lots of guidance on promoting clean contact, improving air quality, maintaining water quality. That was one that was particularly interesting to me because as you shut buildings down, water is not flowing through the buildings, right?

DJ Mike P (12:53):

Indeed.

Angela Spangler (12:53):

Creating a culture of health and resilience and supporting immunity, and really understanding that this has been a life-altering event and we're going to need to make some pivots and be a little bit more mindful about just building that mental resilience. Those are some of the strategies. That document is also free and available to use. Look for that on the website, it's titled Strategies From WELL to Support in the Fight Against COVID-19.

         But if you want to click down to the next slide, I'll tell you what's hot off the press. We introduced a Health-safety Rating. The Health-Safety Rating was that second key deliverable from the taskforce. The health safety rating is a collection of 21 features, 15 of which need to be met to show compliance. We pulled the feature language itself from the WELL Building Standard. We tapped on all of our networks of advisories. We've got a concept advisory for all 10 of the concepts that I previously introduced, we have a research advisory, and then we have sector-specific advisory. Since COVID started, we've done a sector-specific advisory on sports and entertainment venues, on hospitality-type projects, the one we're standing up next year will be on healthcare. But it was really remarkable to see that there are strategies, guidance from the CDC and the WHO and other respectable organizations that put forward a plan.

         There's these four main components. The Health-safety Rating can be achieved without any capital expenditure for your project. It is purely a documentation review. What we're reviewing is the operational policies, the maintenance protocols, any emergency preparedness plans. Part of what left everyone scrambling at the start of this pandemic was that we had three minutes notice. Had we been more prepared and had we had the right types of plans in place, that transition might've been a little bit more smooth. Those are strategies that we're trying to socialize in the event of another pandemic or another shutdown. This isn't going to be one and done, and so the best thing we can do is learn from the situations that we've all managed to live through and find a way to reopen with confidence.

         The last category of features in the Health-Safety Rating really looks at stakeholder education and engagement. That one's really important because so many of the factors that will contribute to our success and reopening is going to be compliance. We're getting into that behavioral change category, that normally you don't have to change behavior too much to just benefit from better lighting or benefit from better air quality because someone made that choice to install the filters or to test that air quality, but now we're starting to talk about the necessary education required to be as safe as possible in the spaces as soon as we choose to reoccupy.

DJ Mike P (16:12):

That's awesome. Thank you so much, Angela.

Angela Spangler (16:14):

Thank you so much for having me. It was really fun.

DJ Mike P (16:17):

Before I let you go, we have to do this, Angela. We love music on this show. It's an important thing I asked you before we got online together, name some of your favorite artists, and you gave me three of them. Let's go through them real quick, okay?

Angela Spangler (16:29):

Okay.

DJ Mike P (16:30):

You're talking about my wheelhouse here, the 1980s. Hall & Oates, do you have a favorite Hall & Oates song?

Angela Spangler (16:36):

Oh my gosh. It's so hard to pick just one. [crosstalk 00:16:41].

DJ Mike P (16:41):

What's their number one? Let's see.

Angela Spangler (16:41):

What is their number one.

DJ Mike P (16:41):

Go ahead.

Angela Spangler (16:41):

I think it's probably-

DJ Mike P (16:45):

You Make My Dreams Come True. (singing). And Fleetwood Mac, how about Fleetwood Mac? You said you saw them in concert not too long ago.

Angela Spangler (16:57):

I did. It was about a year ago, Madison Square Garden, packed house.

DJ Mike P (17:03):

Wow.

Angela Spangler (17:03):

I think I'm adopting my favorite song from one of my friends who insisted her favorite song was Everywhere. We played it on repeat the entire way there and the entire way back. You know the one, (singing).

DJ Mike P (17:18):

Yeah, (singing). Yeah, yeah. I can't hit those notes, but Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie and all those guys. But just to wrap up the music section and maybe even get some karaoke, talking about hitting notes, your last artist of choice was one of my favorites and I'm not ashamed to admit it, Celine Dion. Come on. Have you seen Celine in concert?

Angela Spangler (17:38):

Celine was the last concert I saw before lockdown.

DJ Mike P (17:41):

Oh, wow. There she is belting out one of her ballads. You said give me a good power ballad, right? What are we talking here? (singing).

Angela Spangler (17:47):

I think [crosstalk 00:17:56]. I think my favorite one is when she gets to the point where she's like, (singing).

DJ Mike P (18:05):

But no, she is incredibly talented, extremely talented. If I start maybe with a lower note, I'll get a (singing). All right, everybody. We've already lost the crowd. We've got five minutes left, let's get to our Q and A time.

         There you have it, everybody. A little podcast karaoke to end this week's show. We did go on to answer a few questions, but if you want to hear the entire hour of Angela's presentation during that webinar, please check the show notes. I have left for you a link to download the full version, plus, I've shared with new links to learn more about the WELL Health-Safety Rating. You can also download the 20-page PDF entitled Strategies From the WELL Building Standard to Support in the Fight Against COVID-19: Prevention and Preparedness, Resilience and Recovery. Such good stuff.

         I certainly enjoyed my time with Angela and I hope you did as well. If so, please share this podcast with a colleague or a friend and head over to www.workplaceinnovator.com for more podcast episodes, our weekly live stream, free resources, and so much more, just a few of the things we need as we continue to encourage and inspire each other to be a workplace innovator. Peace out.

         You've been listening to the Workplace Innovator Podcast. I hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to build partnerships that lead to innovative workplace solutions. For more information about how iOFFICE can help you create an employee-centric workspace by delivering digital technology that enhances the employee experience, visit iofficecorp.com.