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Employee wellness has traditionally been the purview of employers, but can the workspace itself play a role? According to experts, it can.
Among the PropTech sector’s largest annual forums, the 2019 ASDInnovate Conference focused on the challenges of attracting and retaining talent in a distributed and agile workplace. Sprout’s Director of Sales & Partnerships, Brea Giffin, had the opportunity to join Sara Andersen, Director of Real Estate Management, Genentech and Amy Bezanson, Director of Development, Crescent Communities on a panel to discuss the value of workplace wellness and the role that work environments can have in retention and productivity. The session, “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away” – Wellness & Well-being in the Workplace, was moderated by Maria Paitchel, Vice President, Northeast USA, IWG.
We have summarized some of the key takeaways from the discussion below. Watch the full session here.
What’s workplace wellness anyway?
Moderator: I’d love to get each of your opinions, to just talk a little bit about wellness in the workplace. What does it mean to you? And how do you see it impacting the workspace?
Brea: To me, wellness really means culture. It’s the ecosystem and the people around you that affect your wellness. Do you have a building that has really great outside light or plants? Or is the physical environment structured for you to do your job better? Do you like the people you work with? These things impact your culture and your day-to-day experience that make you well or not well. You’re spending around a third of your life at work so it’s really the biggest thing that’s going to impact your wellness day to day. It should be a huge focus.
Sara: Wellness needs to be more about work-life integration. How do we as employers help support health and wellness through work-life integration? Recognizing what someone is going through, whether their kid is having a tough time at school or some other health or personal challenge, you, as an employer, need to be there knowing that it is a reciprocal relationship.
Amy: Wellness is a really key component of recruiting and retaining talent. For our tenants and office buildings in particular, talent is the most valuable resource. We look at ways we can help our talent utilize the space and how we can design the space to really facilitate people wanting to be there, wanting to stay there and wanting to be more productive at their jobs. How people feel at work, how they perform— absenteeism, presenteeism, sick days – you can really see the benefit and the impact that the space has on people.
If you look at something like thermal comfort, control over your space can lead to a 3% increase in productivity. Natural ventilation is 11%. Natural light has about a 23% impact on productivity. And access to natural environment—green spaces, even just views of green space—can have an 18 to 20% increase in productivity. You can really start to see the benefit of that to the bottom line and [to] people just being happy at work and feeling more productive.
ROI or ROV?
Moderator: How do you measure the return on investment, or the return on value, within your organization?
Brea: It really does depend on the company. For companies that care a little bit more about culture, they care about engagement, utilization, and employee surveys that say ‘I love working here.’ For companies that are much more data-oriented, they’re looking at biometric change on a population level year over year. They’re looking at health-risk change and they’re integrating [data] with their benefits, claims, usage and absenteeism. They’re looking for a macroscopic story about their ROI. But we always say that it’s also really important to look at the return on your value. So, again, going back to culture.
There needs to be a good balance when you implement a wellness program where the bottom line matters…but [so do] the soft costs that are attached to the wellness program, to really get the full story, the full impact, that this kind of program is going to have for your company.
Amy: I think that we’re beginning to see wellness play a much bigger role in [return on investment]…Tenants are also becoming savvier about the benefits, wanting to provide the best type of space for their employees and truly understanding the value of wellness and recruiting and retaining talent.
Moderator: What are some of the misconceptions you hear about wellness in the workplace?
Brea: The biggest misconception that I hear out there is that wellness programs don’t work. And, unfortunately, the people that I hear this from most often are the leaders. So, what do you do? I always say you should challenge your leaders. Show them the education, show them the research.
It was really not very long ago that what we know of today as the weekend was not a benefit. Henry Ford put this in place. There was actually a well-documented riot outside the Ford plant because people wanted to come work for a leader who thought big, who took risks, who gave more people-centric benefits. Ford is going to celebrate their 120th anniversary soon – there’s your ROI story. I would challenge you to say ‘wellness is this century’s weekend’. You can either get a head start, like Mr. Ford did, or you can fall behind.
Moderator: Where do you see wellness initiatives going in five to ten years from now?
Sara: I think the future of [wellness initiatives] involves more choice. There is documentation out there that our workforce is shrinking and so employees have choice in where they work. I think, 5 years from now, 10 years from now, [wellness initiatives] are still going to matter. I think the biggest misconception for me about wellness is that it’s a fad. I don’t think that’s true. I think each company, no matter your size or industry, has to determine what wellness means to them.
Sprout was honoured to participate in ASDInnovate and learn about the challenges faced by the growing PropTech sector while sharing knowledge about how to promote, measure and sustain meaningful workplace wellness. Sprout is a leading global corporate wellness platform with a proven track record and the highest review rating in the industry. Learn more at www.sproutatwork.com.