Can the workplace be a place where people leave healthier than when they arrive in the morning?

That was our opening question to gatherings of independent designers and corporate facilities, HR and Health & Safety professionals in the Twin Cities on October 23, 2012.

Leading the discussion was Kevin Butler, Senior Ergonomist for Steelcase, and Lisa Rogers, Director of Workplace Design and Strategy for UnitedHealth Group.

But yesterday started out with even bigger questions: “how small?” and “how much”? – all about Apple’s new iPad. The iPad and iPhone are symbolic of the technology that has done more to throw work/life balance out of whack than anything in the past 50 years. We are “in” and “on” constantly – Gen Y, Gen X and Boomers alike. None of us can look at a flashing screen without wanting to know what’s going on? What are we missing? What do we need to know?

Even though the word Well-being came into use over 50 years, Corporate America was not paying attention until very recently. Any fact-checker worth his salt will confirm the US spends more money on health than any other industrialized democracy, and gets worse results.

I suspect that until those graphs showing a steep rise in healthcare costs were overlaid with the increasing unhealthy characteristics of the US population did companies decide to take matters into their own hands.

The message to this group was that well-being is an emotional, financial and competitive advantage. The built environment plays a key role in the effective support of the work that engages the employee and supports their physical and psychological needs.

It’s about career, community, financial and social well-being – a set of factors that support wellness as good for the employees and the company. And ideas were shared about workplace design that provides workers choice and control over how and where they work.

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