Wellbeing in the workplace

Richard Freeman explains how businesses are turning their attention to the wellbeing of people

Businesses understand the positive impact that having embedded environmental and sustainability read rating can have when it comes to cutting costs and maximising profits and productivity. Recognised standards, such as BREEAM or LEED, have contributed to this cultural and commercial change of mind set, particularly in developers and occupiers who are looking for the best returns on their investments.

But with the bricks-and-mortar taken care of, businesses have recently been turning their attention to the wellbeing of their other major investment – their people. With around 90% of businesses’ running costs being tied up in its people, any improvements that can be made, for instance by reducing things like sick leave, can have a positive impact on the company – as well as the people concerned. Making even small changes early on can have long-term benefits.

Perhaps the most visible change has been a move away from cellular offices to open-plan working; this contributes to people feeling more engaged and motivated and has created a workplace where no-one is tucked away behind a photocopier.

However, this isn’t the only visible change and as our awareness of wellbeing grows, so does the number of steps that we can take in ensuring that our people have access to great working environments, encouraging productivity and fostering a healthier workforce.

Our aim as contractors is to engage with this process and advise our customers on how best they can integrate these practices into their project.

When undertaking a refurbishment, for instance, we use our Health Impact Assessment to understand the end users’ satisfaction levels with things like heat, light, nutrition and access to working areas away from their desks, and score the building to create a benchmark.
This then allows us to go back to the designers and fit-out contractors to advise them on the inclusion of things like different chairs and high/low desks, different lighting or revisions to breakout spaces.

By following this up with a post-completion survey, we can demonstrate a return on investment to our customer and demonstrate how this can lead to reductions in future running costs and increases in profitability.

We’re also working with the University of Birmingham to understand how ‘nudges’ can be incorporated into our designs, to further facilitate physical activity – for example by encouraging building users to take the stairs rather than a lift.

Closer to home, Willmott Dixon provides access to performance and nutritional coaching through our Life Balance programme, which we offer to our people and extend to our customers.

While a number of consultants are exploring how to deliver better wellbeing for their customers and projects, we are taking a proactive stance in helping to ensure that our customers’ needs are met not just now but in the future.

At the moment, considering wellbeing initiatives in a project is down to the individual developer or occupier. However, the Well Building Standard – the world’s first certificate for wellness – is beginning to gain traction. While it is still based on American building standards, it is only a matter of time before we have a version tailored to the UK market.

With the experience that we’ve developed already, Willmott Dixon is ready to come to our customers’ tables informed and prepared to deliver recommendations and best practice.