For decades, work was just work: you weren’t supposed to enjoy it. These days people expect more from their employment than a pay packet and a creeping sense of frustration. Increasingly, the top talent is making career decisions based on the quality of environment in which they’ll spend the majority of their adult lives. Places where they feel valued, fulfilled and well, both mentally and physically.
Happy, healthy employees are good for business, too. Countless studies have demonstrated the impact of wellness on retaining the workforce and reducing absenteeism. And a culture of wellness at work can give your business the competitive edge required to attract the best applicants.
At Workspace, we understand the value of wellness to our customers, and have designed our Business Centres with that in mind. Instead of cramming as much lettable office space into our buildings as possible, we incorporate large atriums with natural light, plants and open staircases as well as breakout areas, cafes and gyms.
We recently took part in the UK Green Building Council’s Wellbeing Lab, a seven month knowledge exchange programme, focused on our own offices but fed into our plans for development and refurbishment across the portfolio. Quick wins included installing blinds to reduce screen glare, investing in more video conferencing facilities and introducing more plants for visual impact and reduction of CO2 emissions.
So, what can new and growing businesses be doing to foster wellness in the workplace? We caught up with two of the panellists from the WBI dinner: John Grumitt, Chief Executive of Changing Health, which provides evidence-based education and support for people with and risk of Type 2 diabetes and James Routledge, founder of Sanctus, a company trying to change the perception of mental health.
1. Get the easy stuff right
Fostering wellness at work shows you care about your employees. And there are plenty of fairly simple things businesses can be doing to create a positive working environment, says John. Having standing desks or walking meetings, making healthy food available, installing showers for those cycling to work or encouraging people to take breaks.
James recognises that the culture of work is starting to become more wellness-oriented. “An office without a fruit bowl is weird nowadays,” he says. But while bean bags and fussball tables are welcome, he says the real challenge is the lack of awareness around mental health.
2. Open up the mental health conversation
“Work can be stressful and where a lot of things manifest for you,” says James. “So it’s important to create an environment where it’s OK not be OK.” Bosses should be open with employees, acknowledge that everyone has their ups and downs, and encourage them to discuss their mental health if they want to.
Many workplaces still have an outdated approach in which employees are expected to leave their baggage at the door. This needs to change.
“In a business, it’s important to be feel like you can take an hour out of your day to go to the gym or see a coach or therapist.”
3. Lead from the front
The best way to create this environment is for bosses to set a good example.
“Leaders need to be more aware of their own mental health but also on how the environment they create is going to impact upon the mental health of others,” says James.
The same goes for wellness in general. If your boss is working 7 till 7, eating lunch at his desk and walking round with a stressed look on his face all day, that’s going to have a negative impact on employees.
4. Recognise that there’s no silver bullet
Flexible working hours, unlimited holiday allowance, team away days, a Friday drinks trolley…all can have their place but none are a magic solution to wellness in the workplace. Companies have to go on their own journey and find out what works best for them.
“There’s no point having free beer in the office if people never have time to drink it because they’re too stressed trying to meet deadlines,” says James.
Equally, says John, there’s no point indulging in fads unless there’s a sound scientific basis. “Whatever you’re encouraging has to have an evidence base to it,” he says. “This is the only thing that’s sustainable.” There is plenty of evidence out there demonstrating the positve impact on productivity, reduced absenteeism and improved health risk scores. Turning this into an effective business case is usually needed to engage corporate decision makers to invest.
So - yes to anything that encourages a healthy diet, physical exercise and getting enough sleep.
If you’re interested in hearing more about personal experiences of mental health in the workplace, go to Sanctus Stories on Sept 20. Details can be found here.
For more information on health risk reduction programmes visit www.changinghealth.com or you can contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
At Workspace, wellness at work is a huge part of what we do. Whatever part of the city you want to work in, we have a space for you. Become a part of a community and make going to work more than just the daily grind.