Feature Story

The Future of Workplace Wellness

by Stephanie Chan

Employee health and happiness get a jumpstart at the Smartest Building in North America.

Imagine waking up in the morning and having your work building know whether or not you are coming in for the day. Say that you do make it in—you then have the ability to also control your personal office space's temperature, lighting, and energy features with just an app on your phone.

Expect to see this kind of personal occupancy control—what is known as the future of corporate wellness— start to infiltrate the workspace very soon. Cisco is taking the lead in workplace happiness, wellness, and innovative technology with its brand new offices in Toronto, Canada.

Located at RBC Waterpark Place, Cisco's new residence is being hailed by Cisco Canada president Bernadette Wightman as "The Smartest Building in North America". With a LEED Platinum Core and Shell, and Power-over-Ethernet LED lighting and HVAC, the building certainly lives up to that name.

Most importantly, Waterpark Place is built on a single converged IP network, enabling the use of current and future technology tools like TelePresence, WiFi, Internet Connectivity, and personal occupant control. This connection allows employees to interface and to control their surrounding environment.

The employees at Cisco's Toronto office, who will occupy the 26th through 29th floors at Waterpark Place as well as the 2nd floor Internet of Everything Innovation Center, can greatly benefit from this new technology.

Bill MacGowan, the building's Director of Smart Connected Real Estate in Canada, expands on how having personal occupant control in a building like those at Waterpark Place can revolutionize the way we work in the future.  

"When you go into the office you have now, you have no control," says MacGowan, "You can't control light or noise level. We want the building to attract and retain next generation workers, and to create an environment where they want to come into the space, where they want to be innovative and collaborative."

Cisco worked with real estate developer Oxford Properties to make the smart building a reality. While MacGowan states that RBC Waterpark Place was truly the first stake in the sand of connected buildings in Canada, many others are growing keen to the idea and wanting to get smart as well—with global calls for connected spaces in healthcare, education, banks, and more.

Not only are new smart buildings popping up from the ground, but many are also looking to retrofit older, existing buildings with connectivity.

"If you're going to look at major retrofits and major construction projects," says MacGowan, "There will be a huge acceleration of smart buildings in three to four years. It will be adopted by the majority of the design and construction community."

Cisco's new offices will also incorporate spatial control, with interactive maps placed outside of elevators that point towards specific teams, allowing for smoother collaboration opportunities.

Lighting will also be a shiny new factor in how employees will be able to maximize wellness solutions in the office. Cisco and Oxford Properties is working closely with Philips Lighting to create tunable light that can be personalized to an individual's mood or certain time of year or day.

Delos' Well Building Standard outlines the attributes of a building that are needed to promote human health and wellness, which include air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. As buildings grow closer to becoming standardized in connectivity and personal control, they will also provide the opportunity for total occupancy wellness.

"If you create an environment where people are healthier and more innovative and collaborative," says MacGowan, "You're going to get more productivity out of your workforce."