The wellbeing agenda

23 January 2018

Martin O’Rourke, commercial director at Birchwood Park, shares his top contributors to workplace wellbeing.

So often the UK’s productivity rates are proven to be lacklustre when compared with our European counterparts. In an effort to change this, there is an increasing focus on the needs of the individual office worker, with companies prioritising happiness and wellbeing as drivers of workplace productivity. Research shows that wellbeing at work not only improves productivity but is directly linked to sickness-absence levels, staff recruitment and retention.

For global, corporate businesses, dedicated wellbeing panels and HR departments are implementing companywide initiatives to capitalise on the benefits of a well thought out health and wellbeing approach. For startups, SMEs and growing businesses however, wellbeing and the process of sourcing and implementing changes can often be a daunting topic.

At Birchwood Park we’ve seen firsthand how a healthy office environment can prove the difference between an unmotivated and a motivated workforce, whatever the size of your business. Employers regularly cite aspects such as community events, the landscaped environment and amenities as improving employee happiness, general and mental wellbeing.

We believe there are five key areas where investment can go a long way to developing a happy, engaged and productive workforce:

1. Amenities

Employers are increasingly looking for office space with amenities in close proximity – from restaurants and cafés, to gym and leisure facilities. Having these amenities on your doorstop can help employees achieve the work-life balance that is desired. The challenge for employers is to create workspaces that slot easily into lives, accommodating family and homelife. It should be easy, for example, for employees to pick up dinner supplies during their lunch or after work, rather than having to travel across town before home in the evening.

2. Flexible working

Flexible working goes hand in hand with modern business. Providing employees with more options – whether it’s co-working spaces, hot-desking or the flexibility to work from different locations – can stimulate general health and mental wellbeing through giving staff more of a say in how they work. Similarly, flexible working hours give employees the freedom to co-ordinate work and life, from adapting start and finish times to suit school runs or avoid rush hour traffic, to allowing for breaks that accommodate gym timetables. It’s about recognising that no two people are the same, and individuals have different needs both inside and outside of work.

3. Connectivity

It goes without saying that an easy commute makes an easy life. People want to work close to home or desire a commute with as little hassle as possible. Rush hour traffic and crowded trains are continually linked to feelings of stress and dread. Situating offices in well-connected, convenient areas, therefore, can make all the difference to staff, ensuring that when they arrive at work they are ready to attack the working day.

4. Office fit-out

The office environment provides the first impression of any workplace for potential new recruits and clients. To ensure the best talent wants to come to your business, it is becoming more and more important to invest in the look and feel of the office – whether that’s providing alternative workspaces, breakaway areas to allow thinking in a relaxed environment or large windows providing lots of natural light. Research, in fact, links access to green views through windows to significantly faster recovery from stress and mental fatigue, while daylight exposure is linked to improved sleep duration and mood, lower blood pressure and increased physical activity.

5. Community

A recent report, “Employee Wellbeing Research 2017: The evolution of workplace wellbeing in the UK”, found engagement and culture to be the biggest drivers of wellbeing strategies for businesses. Aside from benefits of decreased absence levels and increased productivity, it is clear that businesses are looking at the bigger picture. The importance of ensuring employees feel part of something more than the four walls of the office cannot be underestimated and simple initiatives from running groups and exercise classes, to BBQ socials in the summer can all contribute to the overall company culture.

Placing wellbeing at the top of the agenda will be critical in the race for the best talent. And it’s about more than heading to the gym or healthy eating, this is about blurring the distinctions between work and leisure and creating an environment that promotes continuous improvement, engagement and that all-important work/life balance. Get wellbeing right and the rewards will be endless.

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