Much has been written about the support of wellness in the workplace from the view point of both sustainability and talent professionals.

Sustainability folks discuss wellness in terms of daylighting, occupant comfort, air quality and material selections, to name a few, which provides an environment that promotes higher energy levels and increases productivity of office workers.

Talent folks discuss wellness in terms of health, fitness and reducing stress to increase productivity, which supports lower absenteeism and helps control health care costs.

Regardless of the motivating factors, we all want a happy, healthy workforce. However, while the end goals are aligned, I haven’t seen strategic allegiances between these two groups to partner in promoting wellness within the organizations they serve.

Creating Vitality

I believe the reason behind this lies in the way wellness is defined. Wellness is “the state or condition of being in good physical and mental health.”  While health is of the utmost importance, when we don’t look beyond addressing the health component, we miss an opportunity for a holistic enhancement of the workplace.

Instead of solely focusing on a healthy workforce, what if we shifted our primary focus and efforts to creating vitality?

Vitality is defined as “the capacity to live, grow, or develop a meaningful or purposeful existence.” Therefore, employees who are instilled with a sense of vitality can transform their work environment into a meaningful experience, rather than just a place. Employees that capture workplace vitality function at their best and support a thriving, collaborative company culture.

In his book, Are You Fully Charged, Tom Rath suggests that when you’re completely energized you accomplish more. Isn’t that what vitality is really all about? You have the endurance to live, to grow and develop parts of your life into something wonderful.

To better understand how to achieve workplace vitality, I’ve outlined three conditions that create positive change, as proposed by Tom Rath, and show how sustainability and talent professionals can align their priorities with them:


Sustainability and talent professionals inherently understand that creating purpose, aligning to purpose and/or living purposefully creates happiness and engagement in ways that no traditional means of motivation (bonuses, perks, etc.) can.  By teaming together, we can assist organizations in aligning their actions and their purpose into something greater than the bottom line.

A workforce rooted in purpose will always drive top line measures higher because they are connected to something bigger than themselves and create shared experiences that are more valuable than money. 


Human beings are social creatures. We need positive interactions with others to help energize us throughout the day. Talent professionals know that creating collaboration builds cumulative strengths in organizations.  Sustainability professionals know that creating open office floor plans with better natural lighting and air quality promotes collaboration.

Designing a space to be ultra-collaborative creates the opportunity and encourages behavior for others to put positive energy into our daily interactions. In the techno savvy world we live in, it’s really tempting to go solo or communicate only through email, IMs and texts. Using sustainability tenets of space design, we can promote more face-to-face interactions with those around us and increase the good juju we get from positive interactions with others.


We live in a highly stressful time. There is pressure to do more, be better and succeed in all aspects of our lives like never before.  To be vital, we must have the energy to function.

Human beings gain energy by eating, moving and resting.  Without those activities, we stress our bodies and our minds.  All of us know, when we’re stressed out we’re not productive.  Sustainability and talent professionals, again, should partner to ensure these three essential elements (eating, moving, resting) are present in organizations today.

By working together, these groups can influence the types of nutrition that is available for our workforce, from what is stocked in office kitchens, vending machines and cafeterias to working with local vendors to provide discounts for employees to choose healthier options.  Many health insurance providers are also more than happy to send a nutritionist to an organization to talk about the difference between quality of food choices (organic, plant based proteins, naturally sweet snacks, etc.) and quantity of food choices (calories consumed).

Combining creative spaces for movement and resting in sustainable office design (like standing desks and treadmill work stations) with talent programs (like fitness challenges and 10 minute walking breaks) can be profoundly powerful in increasing productivity and energy levels in employees. You want your office buzzing with excitement?  Skip the cookies and provide positive energy boosting activities instead.

Treadmill work stations help energize employees. 

A Purpose Driven Culture

Implementing these three conditions is the first step to creating an office culture of vitality. Employees that are instilled with purpose will be happier, more production, and ultimately healthier. A vital, empowered workforce will also create an enduring business.

If sustainably and talent professionals come together to align design and behaviors to promote vitality, businesses will be better equipped to meet the desired levels of productivity and profit by creating purposeful work, powerful interactions and raising the collective energy level.

Who’s with me? Let’s start a conversation that focuses on creating vitality in our buildings and employees.

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