This paper was put together following the CBx breakfast event in February 2015, to summarise the open discussion around wellbeing in the working environment, including case studies from organisations that have seen the benefits of implementing a workplace strategy focussed on enhancing health, wellbeing and productivity for their occupants. With special thanks to our fantastic panel of experts; Peter de Bie of Ipsum Energy, Richard Francis of the Monomoy Company, Richard Reid of Arup and Tim Oldman of Leesman.
The subject of health, productivity and wellbeing in buildings has garnered increasing interest over the last few years and the ability to track the relationship between environmental, organisational and financial performance looks set to be a major agenda over the next 5. Most of us know implicitly that our buildings and surroundings are important to our health, and yet there is still very little tangible research or information available. The principal challenges in the development of this topic have been the difficulty in building a strong business case and the lack of metrics for measurement; as such, development in the energy and carbon field has been much more rapid – stimulated further by the raft of environmental legislation. However, while energy consumption and carbon emissions are highly technical mechanisms which a building inflicts on the world with little global effect, the wellbeing of one’s workspace is a very local, very personal matter affecting everyone. Consequently, it is much easier to secure staff buy-in.
- The WGBC report describes how staff costs – salaries and benefits – typically account for approximately 90% of business operating costs in the office sector and therefore small changes in employee wellbeing have the potential to generate huge financial savings for an organisation.
- There are two sides of the coin for the wellbeing business case; cost savings (lower absenteeism) and increased profit (more productive staff) for tenants, and higher asset value and higher rental yields for landlords.
- The Leesman Index finds that 54% of respondents report that their buildings allow them to work productively whilst 29% are in active disagreement; 3 in 10 people feel that their productivity is hampered by their working conditions.
- The Index shows that increasing wellbeing is about strategic intervention rather than big capital spends
- The WGBC report finds that many organisations hold a bank of information that could yield important immediate improvement strategies for their two biggest expenses; people and places. However, the full set of information is likely to be held by three different people inside a company and will involve a process of sharing and collaboration.
- The WGBC report suggests that health, wellbeing and productivity are three, interrelated but not always overlapping topics which need to be considered from three angles; physical, perceptual and financial.
- Early analysis of the the Innovate UK Building Performance Evaluation (BPE) funding programme does not show any clear correlation between user satisfaction and energy consumption. Anecdotally, the more highly serviced buildings tend to be more frustrating for occupants, often born from a lack of local control such as mechanised windows.
- Controls and interfaces can be the cause of much frustration for occupants. These items are very rarely specified in detail and often no real thought is given to how they will be understood by the building users.
- The forgiveness factor has also been observed in the BUS results; occupants are more tolerant of discomfort if they are proud of the building and / or perceive the building to be well-designed.
- Although it might be difficult to establish a direct link between energy performance and wellbeing, there are a number of strategies that can increase both in parallel.
- IPSUM Energy have also observed that a complex understanding of the energy consumption of a building increases the occupant satisfaction by creating a feeling of ownership and understanding and providing points of conversation.
- A building that maximises health, wellbeing and productivity will show a greater understanding of environmental psychology and a higher level of social cohesion and social infrastructure – as substantiated by analysis from the Leesman Index.
- Increasingly people have the tools to measure and understand how their building is performing allowing them to connect with the topic personally in a way that they do not with energy and carbon. This suggests that, increasingly, sustainability will be driven from the bottom up.