Health and Wellbeing: Driving change in the workplace

The way that we work is changing, as well as where we work. The Making Moves team are great believers that offices are for people, and not just for desks.

This change has come about through increased awareness of the importance of wellbeing in the workplace, not only for the benefits to individual workers, but also to the business as a whole.

With 1 in 6 workers in the UK suffering from mental health issues, it is more important than ever to create a positive working environment that caters for employee wellbeing.

So how do you make employees happy? The culture of free food, work drinks and office trips all assist with team bonding and creating a positive working environment. However, true employee happiness in a business is created by the right to choose, a mutual respect (between employer and employee), trust, empowerment and flexibility.

Choice and flexibility go hand in hand in an office environment. Everyone works differently for a start. Even the simplest of things such as being a morning person or a night owl will alter productivity levels enormously. Employers should embrace the needs of each member of staff, rather than try to impose a one size fits all solution to problems. Choice empowers people to make great decisions and helps staff to find a better work-life balance. This generally tends to improve wellbeing at home and in the office.

The culture of presenteeism (the idea that to be productive, you must be physically present in the office) is beginning to decline. It has been proven time and time again that this is actually counterproductive and ends up costing businesses more money in relation to stress-related illness and lost productivity. As such, flexible and home working has dramatically increased in the UK.

The office itself is also dramatically transforming, in line with these ideas. Social ergonomics (how our environment affects behaviour) are high on the agenda when our clients are looking to relocate and design their new space. For example, office layouts need to include different areas for different activities, e.g. concentration space, collaborative space and privacy when needed. Forcing someone to work in one place will have a negative effect on their wellbeing.

The property industry has begun to acknowledge the importance of wellness in the design and building of workplaces. The newly introduced “Well Being Standard” works in a similar way to sustainability metrics (e.g. BREEAM) and measures the features of a building that affect human health and wellbeing. It covers seven key criteria: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

These features are all known to increase productivity and performance, making them imperative to an occupier. Equally, for landlords there is a commercial advantage and price premium for assets which incorporate wellbeing. A recent study by Dodge Data & Analytics showed that landlords believe they can charge a premium rent as a result of wellbeing. The same data showed that these spaces leased more quickly.