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monthlies OnOffice July9

04 May 2020

Wellbeing in the workplace is more than just a buzzword

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Employers can't just put a few plants and a fruit basket in the kitchen and call it wellbeing, says Ben Channon, associate and mental wellbeing ambassador at Assael Architecture

In the last year or so, wellbeing has emerged as one of the key topics in workplace design. Unfortunately though, it is still common to see it referred to as a trend or a fad. However, with the emergence of new research, the impact of buildings on our wellbeing is becoming ever more measurable. 

A 2017 report by Deloitte, Mental Health and Employers: The Case for Investment, showed that investment in work-place mental health could offer returns on investment as high as £9 on every £1 spent. Deloitte's research goes further, estimating that workplace absences cost the UK economy £8bn, and presenteeism costs between £17 and £26bn per year. The sheer expense of poor employee mental health in enough to prove the value in better wellbeing policies. 

assael architecture Ben Channon
Ben Channon is an associate and mental wellbeing ambassador at Assael Architecture 

Even relatively small investments in the infrastructure can help create an office that works for all employees. Not only do employers now need to invest in workplaces that improve the mental health of their workforce to attract and retain the best staff, we can demonstrate that doing so will provide clear financial benefits. 

Having an empirical basis for these design decisions is crucial. The good news is that organisations such as the International WELL Building Institute are implementing accreditations for buildings that support our physical and mental health. 

Air quality, light, temperature and non-toxic materals and the quality of water are some of the key components to supporting healthy bodies and minds. WELL certification goes further, demanding access to good nutrition, physical activity, acoustic comfort, mental health support, and a connected community. 

assael architecture Ground Floor
Investing in offices that improve the mental health of the workplace is shown to provide financial benefits. 

We have now started to incorporate our own research into projects and bring in lessons from WELL. We are finding a rapidly increasing demand to explore WELL certification, but even if a client chooses not to go down this route, many of the approaches can still be used. 

As this body of research grows – and with employees driving demand – it is set to become ever-more quantifiable, measurable and, most importantly, attainable. Far more than just a buzzword, wellbeing is here to stay. 

n t h e l a st y e a r o r s o, w ell b ei n g h a s e m e r g e d a s o n e of t h e k e y t o pi c s i n w o r k pl a c e d e si g n. U nf o r t u n a t el y, t h o u g h, i t i s s till c o m m o n t o s e e it r ef e r r e d t o a s a t r e n d o r a f a d. H o w e v e r, wit h t h e e m e r g e n c e of n e w r e s e a r c h, t h e i m p a ct of b uil di n g s o n o u r w ell b ei n g i s b e c o mi n g e v e r m o r e m e a s u r a bl e. Hi s t o ri c all y i t h a s b e e n c h al - l e n gi n g t o q u a ntif y w ell b ei n g a n d it s v al u e i n d e si g n, m a ki n g it di ffic ult t o c o m m u ni c at e it s b e n e fit s. W hil e w e a r e s e ei n g a r e al g r o w t h i n t h e n u m b e r of o ffi c e s i n c o r p o r ati n g a h u m a n- c e nt ri c a p p r o a c h, t h e r e r e m ai n s s o m e s c e pti ci s m d u e t o t h e a p p a r e nt l a c k of e m pi ri c al d at a. F o r t u n at el y, t hi s i s b e gi n ni n g t o c h a n g e. R e c e nt r e s e a r c h i s st a r ti n g t o d e m o n st r at e t h e cl e a r fi n a n ci al b e n e fit s it c a n o ff e r. A 2 0 1 7 r e p o r t b y D el oi t t e, M e n t al H e al t h a n d E m pl o y er s: T h e C a s e f or I n v e st m e nt, s h o w e d t h at i n v e s t m e nt i n w o r k - pl a c e m e n t al h e al t h c o ul d of f e r r et u r n s o n i n v e st m e nt ( R OI) a s hi g h a s £ 9 f o r e v e r y £ 1 s p e nt.

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