By Anthony Bennett, Co-Director of Bennett Hay
Mental and physical wellbeing within the workplace is a topic which continually dominates headlines, with more organisations than ever before implementing plans aimed at minimising cases of inactivity and loneliness. Add in the toxic shock of lockdown and potential new ways of working and the ramifications for businesses and Facilities Management (FM) start to hit home.
Figures released in 2018 by the Health and Safety Executive for Britain showed stress as the number one cause of long-term work-related absenteeism in the UK. Being as much a financial issue as a moral one, businesses everywhere are acknowledging and understanding the importance of wellbeing in the workforce and are creating programmes for both the traditional and new workplace.
0ffice2.0 re-boots the need for organisations to bring health and wellbeing to the fore as organisations address an increasingly transient workforce whose interactions from a central office may be less regular than before.
The Office2.0 new routine is bringing fresh opportunities for FM as employee wellbeing takes its place in the core brief of managing the building & estate as well as now looking at how wellbeing can be addressed through food, spaces and design, employee benefits and company values.
Workplace wellbeing encompasses a wide gamete of tangibles; from creating a sense of community through shared organisational values, peace of mind around sanitisation procedures to ensuring teams have access to nutritious food.
As individuals we average 40-hours per week in a work environment, therefore, it’s important that the workplace is an appealing place where employees feel that their mental and physical wellbeing is acknowledged, nurtured and supported. Office2.0 now means consideration must be given on how this can be replicated remotely too giving a parity to all personnel. There are several key learnings for FMs to partner with their clients to support the wellbeing of the workforce:
The work-life balance is paramount: the current directive to ‘work from home where possible’ supports flexible working. Equally the past 2-months have potentially kick-started a movement for greater flexibility. Flexible working goes a long way in valuing employee’s time and making the effort to support their lifestyle is a huge and proven step to improving wellbeing.
Celebrate individuality: champion individuality and encourage colleagues to speak on 1:1 basis. After months focussed on the four corners of a laptop as the only means of communicating as a team, its key to bring people back together to thank, share best practice and maybe to re-learn the company values and culture.
Food and drink: we are a nation of foodies and good food is now an expectation. The high-street will change post lockdown and gives FM the scope to create standout in-office experiences. Experiences that encourage people to interact and instil camaraderie whilst adhering to distancing regulations and compliance. For some time, wellbeing has been brought to life by creating food pop-ups, restaurant collaborations, roof terraces and refreshment points. Office2.0 will bring about more innovations including lifestyle led wellbeing benefits such as the ability to pre-order a prepped healthy meal box ready to take home for dinner.
Post lockdown, and in response to the Government’s fresh drive to counter obesity, immune boosters and immune rich menus will rise in demand along with continued desire for food traceability.
Community outreach: The outlook for more flexibility in workplace means that is key to encourage a sense of community to maintain a feeling of team cohesion. Creating platforms, apps and intranets that drive communication and facilitate engagement enable dialogue and community.
By using technology to create company specific platforms, organisations can draw in huge resources under one application. For example, booking a yoga class while in the office or Zooming in while remote, pre-ordering food and drink for delivery to the table or desk or accessing a menu and video tutorial for a quick fix lunch when working at home. Most importantly for when locks are off, technology is helping create a more touch-less environment and therefore helping alleviate any potential spread of the virus. A win for employees and a win for the employee.
Conscious re-boot: We have all been affected in differing ways post-COVID and for sure there is a renewed appetite to help a local community or a cause. Organising volunteering opportunities for employees can also assist in creating a bond over a shared sense of achievement at completing an altruistic task.
We want people to want to come to be engaged with their workplace community, so it makes sense to offer colleagues something they can’t get anywhere else. Whether that’s access to workplace mentors, innovative and nutritious food menus, pop-up experiences or even just somewhere quiet to grab a smoothie with a co-worker, it’s important to emphasise and support employee wellbeing. Employers will get far more out of their colleagues, plus they’ll be happier and more engaged while doing so.
Developing strong wellbeing practices isn’t just a case of planning the odd day dedicated to eating healthily or an arbitrary coffee morning; it’s a prolonged approach which needs to be built into the fabric of the business.
A new societal outlook means now is implementation time and the onus is on forward thinking FM professionals to think beyond the canteen; to implement these practices and longer term ensure they are maintained and become the Office2.0 norm.