Years ago, I first felt the spark to pursue a path in planning events sustainably after working at a conference where I witnessed a hotel banquet staff replenishing an entire buffet...shortly before systematically trashing every item. I was horrified by the unnecessary waste. That day it became my mission to ensure I included sustainable event frameworks in my planning process.
Attention to the sustainable approach has grown exponentially since that time. Along with it, the well-being of people in the environment has also moved measurably closer to center stage. Expectations are different now. Thanks to evidenced-based frameworks, such as the WELL Building Standard, the International WELL Building Institute’s performance-based approach to measure, certify, and monitor features that affect human well-being in buildings, we now have a greater understanding of how to create spaces that consider the relationships between physical environments and human health.
Backed by science, the framework is a people-first design. Making sure we have healthy air, mindful acoustics, natural lighting, and fresh drinking water is essential to health and well-being in indoor spaces where, according to the EPA, we spend roughly 90% of our lives. As stated in a recent Deloite paper, Well-being: A New Cornerstone for ESG Strategy and Reporting, “what once was a ‘nice to have’ is now a ‘must have’.” To ignore wellness components is to invite potential financial risk, negative PR, or worse.
Wellness is more than including a stretch break or offering organic food at a conference. Traditionally, the focus on health and well-being of people in buildings is aimed at the workplace or home environments because we spend more time in those spaces. However, any space inside, regardless of the amount of time we spend in it—including our event spaces— should consider the same standards. Whether just adding décor to an existing special event venue or creating an entire experience from the ground up, there are manifold ways we can approach incorporating a focus on wellness into our events. Here are a few health-first considerations for planning your next event:
a. Is this a smoke-free facility?
b. How often is the ventilation tested and balanced?
a. Is fresh drinking water provided to event attendees and staff?
b. How accessible is that water to where people are located?
a. Observe how much natural light is available.
b. Is natural lighting incorporated in the event design?
c. Is the space free from exterior noise and distractions?
d. Have you included restorative places in your event space to allow for privacy, dimmable lights and calming colors?
e. Have you addressed olfactory issues by eliminating potent or potentially offending odors?
a. Does your design encourage attendees to walk around and be physically active?
a. Are there plentiful healthy food options available and a reduced number of processed foods?
a. Is the space, including back-of-house, designed to support individuals of all abilities?
On a personal note, I now have first-hand appreciation for all these considerations, especially the final one. A traumatic brain injury and subsequent extended recovery I experienced this year brought my focus on wellness front and center, every day of my life. As a result, the challenge has also served to further elevate my awareness of the essential role wellness plays in the lives of people entering our event spaces. Investing in and nurturing a culture of well-being makes good business sense now and for the future.
So, give your next event space a check-up by using a wellness checklist throughout your process. A health-centric event generates peace-of-mind for attendees—and planners.