The topic of wellbeing in the workplace has been on the agenda for some time and shows no sign of abating.
Here in the UK, much greater awareness and openness around issues such as mental health and the ongoing battle for talent are key drivers. Although a large part of wellness is policy, real estate has a role to play in promoting a healthy, collaborative and engaging environment for employees.
From Cluttons’ perspective, in most of our projects wellbeing is an important consideration and one where its value is recognised. Our project managers are involved early in the process to promote and consider wellness on appropriate projects at the design and briefing stage. This ensures there’s an effective framework which structures how to provide a great working or living environment rather than relying on an individual’s interpretation. There’s definitely science behind creating a healthy environment. And it goes without saying that when wellness is incorporated at the beginning of a project, the less expensive it is. Retrofitting wellness later is much more difficult.
What is also important is that wellbeing involves the wider client team, not just the estate professionals. It is a great opportunity for employee engagement and ensuring that the end result is a true reflection of the client needs.
Cluttons has been involved in two projects recently which have included dedicated Wellness spaces. Both are charities, the Stroke Association and Alzheimer’s Society, so cost was a key consideration, but they strongly believed in the importance of wellness. Their employees are involved in situations which are particularly emotional because they are dealing with people who are experiencing extremely traumatic situations. Therefore, the benefit of providing appropriate space and an environment conducive to stress-relief was a high priority and something neither were prepared to compromise on.
In our own office, we are also constantly reviewing our wellbeing practices, including the introduction of metal health first aiders, leave for charity work, alongside simpler wellness wins such as fresh fruit instead of sugary snacks and free water bottles. Wellness doesn’t have to involve a total refurb or high costs. Here are some ideas which can make an instant impact:
- Introduce plants and biophilia
- Sit-stand desks to reduce sedentary behaviour
- Digital detox days to give employees a break from gadgets
- Healthy vending machines to reduce junk food consumption
- Breakout spaces for collaborative working and gatherings
- Encouraging greater use of stairs with stair challenges
- Walking one-to-ones
In terms of measuring the impact of wellness in the workplace, trying to put a monetary value on it per sqft is challenging as is establishing whether productivity has increased. But a happier, healthier workforce is easier to gauge through decreases in the number of sick days, increased employee satisfaction and engagement. That’s why wellness is here to stay.
Written by Philip Booth, partner – project management