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Why wellbeing is not just a buzz word

04 Sep 2017

Sketch Studio’s Managing Director, Jon Odey talks about the importance of wellbeing in the workplace.

The workplace is awash with buzzwords. Everywhere you turn you hear the words ‘productivity,’ ‘employee engagement,’ ‘customer satisfaction’ and more recently, ‘wellbeing.’ Recent research has shown that an integrated approach to workplace wellbeing can bring about greater productivity, profitability, and improved service levels; so, it’s not surprising that it is starting to embed itself into the typical workplace vocabulary. But what exactly does workplace wellbeing mean and how can you achieve it?

The term wellbeing relates to the complex blend of the physical, psychological and social aspects of an employee’s working and personal life. The way they feel about their lives, including their jobs and the people around them has a direct effect on not only how motivated, productive, and successful they are during their time at work, but also on the wider economy and society.  As such, a growing body of research has shown that companies with an effective wellbeing programme outperform the market, so it’s no wonder wellbeing is flying fast up many company’s agendas.

Design for wellbeing

As the value of employee wellbeing is realised, so in turn is the ROI of a well-designed office. Office design plays a fundamental role in ensuring employee wellbeing is supported. Design that incorporates a mix of areas such as collaboration areas, meeting pods and quiet rooms (to name a few) facilitate activity based working (ABW) encouraging movement and improved communication and collaboration. By embracing ABW employees can choose to work in an area appropriate for the task, reducing stress and enhancing wellbeing.

We have all heard that sitting is the new smoking, with sedentary working increasing the risk of many cardiovascular diseases, which is why furniture selection is such a crucial part of ensuring an office is designed to enable wellbeing. Furniture such as sit-stand desks and ergo stools are not only more ergonomic but also activate fat burning enzymes, engage muscles, and accelerate blood circulation, all factors which contribute to good workplace wellbeing.

Further to this the importance of the design and construction of the buildings themselves have been realised through such international initiatives as WELL Building standards, a system that ensures the built environment is designed and built to support human health and wellbeing. This standard is the culmination of seven years of research in partnership with leading architects, scientists, doctors and wellbeing thought leaders; and has highlighted how the design and construction of the buildings we spend more than 90% of our lives in, impact our health and wellbeing.

A successful strategy is key

However, a successful wellbeing strategy is not only achieved through the design of your office, it needs to be embedded in your company culture in order to be effective. At Sketch, part of Fourfront Group, we take a holistic approach to the health and wellbeing of our employees. Each month there is a theme to our wellbeing programme, this ranges from mental health awareness to stress, sleep, financial wellbeing and the benefits of being outdoors. Each theme is supported by weekly blogs, mini events and speakers.

As part of our Fourfront Academy Training Programme we have introduced Mindful Performance this year. This is a six week course which teaches the benefits of practising mindfulness and how this can be used in a proactive manner with a view to reducing stress. We have also partnered with ‘Mates in Mind’, a charity set up to improve and promote positive mental health within the construction industry. To further support mental health, we have changed our appraisal process to include a discussion around wellbeing. In fact, 25% of the discussion is now based on how that individual is feeling inside and outside of work and what the business can do to support them.

To support our employee’s physical health, we offer a 50% gym membership discount. We hold regular walking groups which we also try and tie in our regular charitable events, the latest being a 40 mile walk from our office in London Bridge to our office in Surrey raising money for Shooting Star Chase charity.

Our office is designed to foster ABW and sit- stand desks are now a part of our everyday working. Breakout areas ensure employees have space to get away from their desks and screens to socialise and recharge.

Most importantly our wellbeing initiative is supported and embraced from the CEO all the way through the company. It is this thorough strategy which has enabled us to be voted number 11 in The Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to work for.

For more on workplace wellbeing, join Sketch at this year’s Wellness Within the Workplace Conference in London on September 5th. Or, ask us about our RIBA CPD on WELL Building, which we have been delivering for the last two years.

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