It is essential that buildings are designed to support the individual—there is overwhelming evidence that workspace design affects health, and that employees’ mental and physical health effects performance and productivity. However, in DC’s high rent environment it is prohibitively difficult for small and pre-existing tenants to provide wellness space, whether it be a federally-mandated lactation room, or private space for employees to manage their mental, physical, and spiritual health.  This has become a barrier to building a diverse and inclusive workplace.

“Harvard researchers have found that for every $1 spent on employee wellness, medical costs fall $3.27 and absenteeism drops $2.73, which is a 6-to-1 return on investment.”

-Baiker, Katherine, David Cutler, Zirui Song “Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings.” Health Affairs. February 2010; 29(2):304-11.

The minimum scope of wellness space is a lactation room, which is required by Federal Law for currently nursing mothers in order to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act for Nursing Mothers Accommodation, passed in 2010. An exception may be granted to companies with 50 employees or less with special application.

These are the federal requirements for lactation rooms:

  • – Be a private room with a door that locks
  • – Not part of or inside a restroom
  • – Be clean
  • – Be available whenever lactation is necessary
  • – Features an outlet
  • – Feature a chair (upright/slighting forward leaning posture is best, pumps don’t work well if you are leaning back or reclining)
  • – Feature a counter or table

62% of women with children under 1 year old were in the labor force in 2013—approximately 2.4 million women.”

-U.S. Census Bureau ACS; 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.

Other private spaces can be included to support prayer or meditation (required upon request under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act), administering of medication for diabetes or other chronic conditions (required upon request under the Americans with Disabilities Act), yoga, napping, as well as providing healthy food choices, access to purified water and air, circadian lighting, temperature control, and other features that have been scientifically proven to support employees wellbeing and productivity.

Process: Wellness space can be incorporated into a new or an existing building in many ways, with a variable program of spaces that can be as small as 50sf to as large an entire amenity floor.

  • – In new buildings they can be designed into the building core near the restrooms.
  • – Buildings being re-positioned can add wellness spaces as part of a curated building environment, or as part of other renovations like conference and fitness centers.
  • – Existing buildings can transform empty suites into wellness spaces that  building tenants can access.

This study ran test fits for different scopes of wellness space in the scenarios listed above to examine the scalability of wellness space, establish a program and kit-of parts, understand federal requirements for these spaces, determine optimum locations, and understand implications for BOMA.

Resources for further reading:

Who to contact for more information: Melanie De Cola