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A Healthy Office? Soft Drinks No, Gardens Yes

skanska June 4, 2018  |  Text by Lukáš Rozmajzl Text by Lukáš Rozmajzl

What should the ideal company kitchen look like? What food and drinks should(n’t) you have available during your work? And why should your employer hand you a hoe and a spade? We asked Lilly, who’s working at a new office building from Skanska. This company, originally from Scandinavia, is now introducing the prestigious WELL certification on the Czech market (among others). It establishes standards for healthy offices.

Lilly, first let us know what you had for breakfast today?

You might be expecting me as a quality-food evangelist to say I milked a goat in the morning and gathered eggs from the hens... nope! There’s quality in the aisles if you use your head and eyes. So this morning I had müsli with milk and strawberries (these I did take from a garden!), a glass of fresh juice, and matcha tea.

You take care of the company’s HR department, but you’re also an ambassador for healthy eating. How did it start?

We try to offer people benefits that they really want. We used to offer training courses like How to Raise Tarantulas at Home, Learn to Talk Like a Teenager and so on, but they didn’t catch on. (laughter) You see, our surveys showed that people care the most about food, and the service that they want at work the most is a company canteen or restaurant.

And we, meanwhile, are located in an office building that has acquired WELL certification, so we try to present to our teammates the fact that they’re located in one of the highest-quality work environments around.

What should we imagine here exactly? Right now, for example, we’re sitting in your company kitchen. Ideally, how should such a kitchen look?

We want people to feel “like kings” at work, but that doesn’t mean that we’re trying to convert offices into castles and introduce “medieval” practices like, say, smoke kitchens. A company’s kitchen should have sufficient space (for at least 25% of the employees) and equipment (a refrigerator, a microwave, silverware, washing supplies, etc.). So, not some cave off to the side that looks like a storage closet at first and second sight.

You exaggerated a bit above and talked about taking eggs straight from the hens... but is it at least true that employees at WELL offices should have space for both work and gardening?

Yes, WELL has a bit of a green thumb. When you’re getting a building certified, you can gain extra points (specifically in the Core & Shell category) if you provide your employees access to a garden, a greenhouse, or at least a fruit orchard. All of these have to have an area of at least 1 m2 per 10 people (and at most 70 m2). Together with these, the employer should give employees access to gardening tools or plants.

So I’m just waiting to see when the people I’m trying to lure into our firm will start showing up to interviews and asking: “Do you have a garden? And can I see it?”

And as for the selection of food and drinks at work, what criteria or recommendations does WELL establish?

In a way, WELL certification goes by the motto that we are what we eat. And we definitely don’t want to be false people who make other people break out in hives when we walk through the door. So WELL tries to cut down on foods with empty calories and artificial sweeteners, or at least to visibly point them out.

That’s why the certification process has for example a requirement for the food sold at a company’s restaurant to show its exact ingredients on its packaging, along with any artificial additives and colorings, any allergens, etc. The limits for drinks are also strict—no drinks sold should have more than 30 grams of sugar. Keep in mind that a liter of juice will have several times that!

Alongside dining and nutrition, WELL certification also covers seven other areas that are decisive for a healthy office. We showed you two of these pillars in recent weeks; you’ll find them behind the links below. We’ll be presenting more areas and their ambassadors again in a week.

► Ordinary Water Improves Your Concentration and Memory. It Staves Off a Sweet Tooth Too

► How can a mat, a wastebasket, or a door handle influence your office’s air quality?

► Your Office Will Now Be in the Hands of the Mindful Eight