COVID-19 is a healthcare crisis that has us doing a gut check on every decision relative to our personal health and the health of our immediate community. We’re also seeing the impact of health on a broader scale as the global community and the world economy is still unsettled. Business ventures, supply chains, manufacturing—all dependent on each other—are being impacted.

The idea of health is now part of the business conversation, as every business is trying to figure out how to instill confidence to its customers while every office is trying to create the proper health and safety conditions in the workplace. Hotels are rethinking the value proposition of a stay and what makes it better than being at home. Similarly, residential environments are rethinking how their space might have to change to consider other aspects of life, like remote work or home care.

As these conversations are happening, we are simultaneously shifting focus and redefining what “health” is. It’s not about only our physical health or receiving healthcare, but rather a holistic view of all the interwoven factors impacting our health and well-being. Now is that a new idea? No! But we’re now seeing it through a new lens, and the rate of acceptance and adoption is accelerating. It’s like a cosmic voice has spoken and said, “Do I have your attention now?” and we’re all paying attention.

For example, we’re seeing clearly the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. As many are working from their homes, we can say that the work environment matters and that access to natural light, views of nature, and proper ergonomics are good for our well-being.

There are now less carbon emissions, and we are subsequently seeing a positive impact on air and water quality. Access to care is also garnering attention as many experienced the impact of not having access to a hospital that can take care of them in a time of major illness.

Technology is top of mind. When the virus started to spread, we wished there was an app that could tell us if we had COVID-19, or that we could get diagnosed from home, or that we were comfortable with telemedicine.

None of these ideas are new, folks. But now we have a reason to adopt them in the long term. Why are we open to a change and shift in focus? Because it’s good for our health, good for the community, and good for business. We should embrace the technologies, systems, and new lifestyle implications of this crisis and step forward into progress in a better healthier way.

Jim Henry, AIA, NCARB, is senior vice president, director of health at CallisonRTKL. He can be reached at In this series, he will explore how accelerated change is rapidly shaping our healthcare systems, built environments, and ways of thought when it comes to safe and healthy design. 

Read the second installment, “Using Telemedicine to Increase Access to Healthcare,”  here.