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Working wellness into real estate

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Wellness at work has become an important talking point for companies today. And it’s no surprise: creating the right office environment is a significant way to retain talent, improve morale and increase productivity. The real estate industry is in a prime position to drive this trend forward, and BNP Paribas Real Estate is leading by example. Now we’re helping our clients to take another look at their own offices as part of a holistic approach to wellbeing.

Changing with the times

Mental, emotional and physical wellbeing have become a focus of attention, especially for millennials. However, all of us are affected—regardless of age, training or industry. We all face lengthening careers, a blurring of the boundaries between our professional and personal lives and economic pressure in the gig economy, where younger people often turn from one job to the next. As a result, one in two employees would like to see a greater focus on wellbeing at their company, according to a 2018 Global Talent Trends Survey by Mercer.

Our jobs are no longer about turning up to pay the bills; modern employees are seeking personal development and a sense of fulfilment.

Wellbeing in the office

Real estate professionals recognise that the modern workplace should reflect who we are, and not just what we do. But how do we achieve this? After all, corporate wellness can cover many things, from a comfortable environment, flexible hours and career development to parental leave, holidays and bonuses.

One first step to addressing wellbeing is looking at the office itself. Taking steps to create a space that harnesses the happiness of employees sends a positive signal of the company’s intent and increasing focus on wellbeing. Similar to the hotel industry, offices are now often presented as an attractive showcase; in other words, a window through which potential employees can get a first glimpse of their new employer’s ethos and attitude.

Employees entering the workplace today have different concerns and expectations than in the past. It is important for the real estate industry to understand the expectations of not only the employer, but also of the staff. Integrating wellbeing at work makes the building become more than just four walls; it fulfils employees’ needs in a very human way.

Physical changes are not the panacea, but they are important. A report from 2017 that cut across industries and organisation size found that 75% of companies with a defined wellbeing strategy in place had redesigned their office layout. The most common adaptations included new workstations, on-site shower facilities as well as recreation and relaxation areas. However, these aren’t just ‘cool features’; they’re designed to make an impact. For example, offering a space for employees to shower makes it easier for them to bike to work, a transportation method that is good for both the person and the planet.

The positives of reimagining an office space are numerous. A recent survey of over 1,000 HR professionals found that 44% of companies with spaces for health and wellbeing activities had better employee morale. Over a third—35%—of respondents enjoyed a healthier, more inclusive culture and 31% reported employees taking fewer sick days. 

 

BNP Paribas Real Estate puts wellness theory into action

BNP Paribas Real Estate has continually made wellbeing a priority. In 2011, we completely reinvented our own office with our employees in mind. The redesign focused on three important areas: improvement of our services, flexible working and a new office layout. This desire to readapt and redesign our spaces is in our nature as we introduced flexible office space in some parts of the office in 2018.

These days, people also want a range of in-house services that enhance their personal lives, be it a way to exercise, run errands or organise childcare. In coworking spaces, for example, members rarely talk about their desk or the temperature in the room—they are more interested by the community they build around them and access to resources.

That’s why we added catering facilities, concierge services, a gym, in-house physiotherapy and an on-site medical team (the latter is proven to be one of the top three most popular wellness strategies among staff, this report shows).

Flexible working and wellbeing

Taking another look at the way we work was crucial, so we also added different kinds of meeting rooms and evolved several teams to a flexible workspace. Modern employees want more control over how and where they carry out their roles, with different areas to work, eat and socialise. Research shows that employees who can move around different areas are 1.3 times more likely to be engaged. This increases to 1.5 times for those who have a space to connect with colleagues.

An urban farm brings a breath of fresh air

With the aim of improving employees’ wellbeing and mental health, we transformed a terrace that was only previously used for management and big events into an urban farm, open to all. Employees can now rent plots of land and plant fruit and vegetables. For those who want that green feeling without taking out the spade and trowel, employees can now wander around the aromatic squares, picking fresh mint and raspberries.

Wellbeing is good for everyone

Although BNP Paribas Real Estate has been aware of the importance of wellness at work for some time, the theme is still in its infancy in general. Research from 2017 found that almost a quarter of companies had no plans to introduce a wellbeing-related strategy in the near future, and only 26% had a strategy in place for more than three years. There is an opportunity here for BNP Paribas Real Estate, as well as for other industries, to continue to adapt their businesses in line with the changing attitudes of their employees, and show they are part of the conversation.

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