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Thursday, Jun 13, 2024

Employee Wellness Among Hottest Trends in Industrial Real Estate

The NAIOP Research Foundation and KSS Architects have issued a new report recognizing the benefit of the widespread adoption of wellness features in industrial real estate buildings.

Wellness elements that contribute to improved occupant health and well-being became a key part of the design of office buildings several years ago, and the trend accelerated during the pandemic. Now, with the meteoric rise of industrial real estate and growing numbers of employees working in high-tech warehouses, a growing number of companies are interested in adding wellness features to distribution centers to improve employee recruitment and retention.

“The rapid expansion of e-commerce over the past decade has reshaped industrial real estate and the nature of work within warehouses and distribution centers,” according to the report, which also notes that “growing competition for workers and increased awareness about workplace wellness have generated interest in design interventions that can make these centers healthier and more attractive work environments. Wellness in industrial properties can contribute to market differentiation, increase employee retention, impact productivity, and help meet environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals.”

The report was authored by Ed Klimek, Jennie Himler, Bri Dazio, Tyler Park, and David von Stappenbeck, all KSS Architects. Andres Rodriguez-Burns, Nate Maniktala, and Marcel Harmon at Branch Pattern also contributed to the report.

Several features that may enhance the work experience for warehouse workers are identified in the report:

• Site layouts that improve pedestrian safety, provide space for public transit and ridesharing services and provide access to green space.

• Shell improvements that improve thermal conditions, acoustic environments, air quality, and lighting such as improved ventilation, destratification fans, skylights, acoustic treatments, high-performance lighting, and radiant heating and cooling elements.

• Workstations that provide ergonomic support, local conditioning, and task-oriented lighting.

• Break spaces for distribution center employees and commercial truck drivers that facilitate restoration; provide access to nutrition, hydration, and fresh air; protect workers from vehicles; and provide relief from the acoustic and thermal conditions of the distribution center interior.

• Space to host amenities that are not located in the surrounding area, such as daycare and food services.

These features would address some of the more common challenges for workers in industrial buildings: noise, uniformity of environments, isolation, and physical strain. They can also contribute to workers’ sense of individual identity, dignity, and community.

“Workers in distribution centers face conditions that are different from those in office buildings or retail centers,” according to the report. “[These recommendations] set the stage for the evolution of distribution centers as they become more embedded in local communities and more attentive to the needs of the people working within them. Achieving the goal of a wellness-focused distribution center will require effort from developers, designers, occupiers and — most importantly — input from workers themselves. Establishing a meaningful dialog between all these parties will be critical to paving the way to a more sustainable, equitable, and successful supply chain.”

For more information, visit naiop.org.

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