Defining wellbeing – flexibility and communication
Wellbeing at work can mean different things to different people, encompassing everything from getting a good work/life balance, to enjoying a friendly working environment, to the content of the work itself.
“The notion of wellbeing at work is a recent one,” Sylvain Hasse, Head of Occupier Solutions at BNP Paribas Real Estate, points out.
“It is the result of numerous concomitant phenomena which appeared four to five years ago, such as the inclusion of CSR in building projects, and mobility and flexibility related to changing lifestyles and jobs, not mention the ever-increasing spread of digital technology within our environments.”
Flatter hierarchies and changing expectations
Management styles are among the factors seen as a driver for wellbeing at work, particularly for generation Y – those born between 1980 and 2000.
This is reflected in workplace structures that are less hierarchical than they were in the past.
“Wellbeing at work is clearly influenced by management methods,” says Sylvain Hasse. “The company has today moved from a pyramid organisation for control and planning purposes, to a flat organisation enabling rapid change and innovation.
“This kind of company is characterised by the trust it places in its employees. Each staff member has the capacity to form and stimulate performance-focused teams.
“For its intelligent communities to function, the company requires a responsive building, a building for which flexibility is key.”
Combining HR and real estate
With managerial initiatives and organisational strategies being implemented, employee wellbeing has become intertwined with the measurement of a company’s performance. It is also an area in which HR and real estate intersect when it comes to making and implementing policy.
Characteristics of a building that supports wellbeing
Companies of all sizes are taking an active interest in their employees’ comfort and quality of life at work, with emphasis placed on access to public transport, the creation of services such as concierge services, and the creation of leisure areas such as fitness facilities. Companies’ buildings themselves are crucial in facilitating these aspects of employee wellbeing policies.
So what are the essential characteristics of a building that supports wellbeing – a responsive building? According to Sylvain Hasse, it is one that will provide both large, open areas for meetings and discussion, but also enclosed offices if the nature of the business requires them.
It will also supply data enabling it to better service its occupants, enjoy good access to the public transport network, and will integrate with its environment.
“In a responsive building the office ‘follows’ staff members throughout the day, adapting to their various tasks,” Sylvain Hasse explains. “Its flexibility also means that it is multi-purpose in terms of usage, for example by converting dining facilities into meeting rooms after 3pm or the staff car parking lot into parking for local residents after 8pm.”
It’s also about decompartmentalising areas, allowing people to communicate more freely.
“Sofas and coffee machines are more than just recreational areas. They facilitate informal communication. Some companies, for example, have opted for escalators rather than lifts, to ensure that it is easier for coworkers to see one another, meet up and chat.”
When HR and buildings departments are in agreement, policies focusing on quality of life are more effective when it comes to attracting and retaining talent
Looking to the future of wellbeing at work
When it comes to employee wellbeing, workplaces in some countries are ahead of others. Scandinavian countries, for example, are top when it comes to inspiring trust and confidence, while young people are trusted and given more support in Northern Europe. The degree of advancement in wellbeing is reflected in buildings too.
“Seating vs standing positions, ergonomics in general, lighting levels and acoustics were all areas explored by the Danes more than a decade ago,” Sylvain Hasse explains.
“Being performance-focused, the British have followed this trend. Americans and Asians are also beginning to include this theme in their HR policies. As for France, it is in the process of catching up thanks to increased awareness, a result of popularisation work carried out by major professional organisations.”
But with wellbeing at work set to continue as a major trend, real estate will be a crucial policy component to keep staff happy, productive and engaged.
As Sylvain Hasse says: “A decade ago, any mention of buildings was pretty much limited to the money spent on rent and surcharges. Today, they are seen as a source of performance and productivity!”