BSRIA event: Measuring occupant wellbeing: The seven steps

The importance of occupant wellbeing has attracted more attention recently as it is now generally accepted that if an occupant’s wellbeing reduces, productivity will typically reduce as well. So workplaces should not only be environmentally friendly but also friendly to their users.

All descriptions of wellbeing indicate that it is more than just the lack of negative situations, such as illness, but it also includes positive features such as happiness. Wellbeing is a ‘dynamic state of mind’ which helps an individual to thrive and happily perform to their optimum ability.

At the recent BSRIA Measuring Occupant Wellbeing event in London, hosted by Jo Harris, BSRIA’s Sustainable Construction Group Manager, the need for fresh air, the reverse trend of office-based work rather than homeworking and the need for an evidence base was highlighted.

Sam Sahni, Workplace Strategy & Change Management leader, Morgan Lovell

How to embed wellbeing in your workplace: the 7 steps

Sam kicked off by saying that there is a “”big problem with wellbeing: what does it mean to you? A free eye test maybe?”

To improve wellbeing he said that “we need an evidence base, engagement and the truth matched to the physical agenda”. He went on to say that as little as 10 years ago there was no mention of wellbeing anywhere but now it has become a ‘hot topic’. Today it is driven by commerciality and Scandinavia is coming out with “endless policies”. Some things can be changed. Collaboration – was the buzz word of the 1990s.

Sam’s 7 steps:

Identify your priorities – in order to achieve your objectives. Priorities vary by organisation with both people and building factors. Break the mould and build a multi-disciplinary team: clients need to form these to come together.

Know thy customer – to get it right!
Would you design any other product without engaging with target end user? Engagement creates a case for change and provides confidence! Break the link between the man and the machine.

Know thyself – to pitch it right!

What type of organisation are you? Where does leadership sit in all this? Which workplace are you? Destination; in-between; or hub?

Destination covers:

  • Free or subsidised food.
  • Relaxation zones – Sam asked if we are now “homing from work?”.
  • Super private areas.
  • Customisable/activity based.
  • Home working not encouraged.
  • Mainly office-based workers.


  • Aspects of activity-based working.
  • May allow working from home occasionally.
  • Mixture of office-based and mobile workers.


  • Work from anywhere.
  • Place to bring people together.
  • Collaboration spaces and for visitors.
  • Workstyles that are based at other sites.

Sam said that some staff need privacy for their confidential work – such as HR staff. Whereas sales staff should be out “on the road” with the car as their office.

CFO always needs a workspace – so let’s give him one!

Sam spoke about distractions and interruptions such as incoming phone calls and chatter with colleagues and how costly to a business such disruption to chains of thought this is. Sam gave a case study to support this:

Housing Association – medium sized

  • Distracted at least 3 times per day for 15 mins = 45 mins per day.
  • £27,000 / 230 = £117 per day.
  • £117/8 = £14.63 per hour.
  • Wasting 45 mins a day = loss £10.98 per person per day.
  • 510 employees x £10.98 = loss £5,599.80 per day.
  • £5,599.80 x 5 = £27,999 per week.
  • £27,999 x 50 = £1,399,950 PER YEAR.


Sam added that staff felt obliged to stay late to make up the time.

Harness the power of creativity – and get uncomfortable with the solution.

Nuffield Health was given as a case study which has no reception desks on entrance – but a concierge juice bar! Members simply wanted their snacks, a coffee, use of the gym then they headed off to the office. Simple!

Commit – but don’t overdo it!

Don’t put notices on fridges. People are cleverer than you think they are. Use graphics instead.

Change is constant – but don’t forget to measure!

Sam said: “There is no one hit wonder. We have to keep moving on: we are not done yet: it is a living thing. We will not go back to static working. Within some companies when change is announced they said ‘over my dead body!’ but we need to attract the millennials. And one needs to police the change. There are lots of solutions: change is a journey and it’s only just started!”

Trevor Keeling, Senior Engineer with the Sustainability & Building Physics Group, Buro Happold

Using building data to predict wellbeing & productivity

Trevor clarified how to use data in complex situations but that “you can be mislead by data and you always need the context”. He added that “you can get useful stuff from very little data and that you only need to measure data once – but at least once a year”. But how long you measure it for and when is key, for example: at what time during the day and whether it’s at the height of summer or winter.

He added that there are eight different ways to measure temperature – it is not subject to uniformity and whether measuring inside or outside makes a difference. Trevor said that you must have an understanding what you are trying to find out before you embark on any data gathering exercise. Interestingly, you can measure “experience”.

And: “Choose your battles when collecting data! Shape it! Don’t always believe the data: talk to people!” A mix of data and experience and people yields the best results but you must combine with subject and experience.

From a more technical angle, Trevor sketched that effect levels off after a given amount. However it’s the level of pollutants and what the air is made up of that really matter. He said: “The more fresh air the better the performance. Productivity drops off at high and low temperatures. Thermal experience is actually what is important not temperature.”

Benjamin Kott, Founder & CEO, EnergyDeck

Requirements for tracking health & wellbeing in buildings – a glimpse into the future

From known knowns to health & wellbeing in buildings (and how to measure and monitor it all)

Benjamin started by saying that

“the world is changing and that almost every aspect of our lives has become digital”.

But you need a data focussed approach and you must keep an eye on the future. Most buildings are, however, 25 years behind the curve (i.e. the age of the connected toothbrush!).

He added that:

“Unknown unknowns are the norm and change is happening now and coming fast: one needs to prep. Service and business models will change dramatically over the next few years. But onewellbeing event: Ben Kott, Energy Deck, says: unknown unknowns are the norm & change is coming fast: prep! can only ‘crack’ the building when everyone is in the stack. The next five years will be very difference to the last five.”

Benjamin asked how does one quantify wellbeing? Is it through happiness? It is known that people need a fresh air supply.

He said that analysing metrics is easy but we need to capture more and

“get a better handle on what we want to achieve”.

On the subject of homeworking – Benjamin said that the trend is now staff coming back to the office to work aka ‘destination workspace’ or ‘coming back to the mothership’. Especially if staff had to cope with babies and lodgers in their home space. As long as autonomy and trust were given to staff – they would be happy to work in the office old school style.

“The most crucial aspect is that employees should be measured on outputs.”

In essence, different workstyles can be matched to different environments. We must engage with the right people and never ‘sugarcoat’ things.

Next steps for the industry:


  • Define “health & well-being” – need to quantify.
  • Develop standards of measurement.
  • Develop benchmarks (“CIBSE TM46 for well-being”).
  • Create plug and play sensor options.
  • Clearly demonstrate the value to key stakeholders.