Cynthia Kantor of JLL Work Dynamics shares how leading companies are building resilience with workplaces designed for employee well-being.
CEO empathy increased dramatically during the early days of COVID, with many management teams responding to the crisis with compassion in the form of extended sick time and free counseling. Since then, however, some organizations have been pulling back on those benefits, prompting the question: Is it time to reduce the focus on health and well-being?
For forward-looking companies, the answer is a resounding: No. In an era of increasing turnover, a focus on health and well-being investment is good business. The last two years have shown more clearly than ever that employees who feel cared for by their employers are more likely to return the favor with enhanced productivity and performance.
Visionary leaders are not only keeping the empathy learned and practiced during COVID — but they’re also actively ramping up health and well-being programs, by investing in quality workplace designs that put employees first. While every company is different, there are some common refrains among organizations that are prioritizing health and well-being through design. A recent survey of 1,100 strategic decision-makers in businesses around the globe highlights how corporate real estate (CRE) leaders are increasingly centering strategy around the human experience.
Four ways to enhance health and well-being
From scaling hybrid work to improving indoor air quality and investing in health-tech, successful companies are increasingly embedding wellness into the workplace. The following are key ways to achieve a health-oriented human-centric work environment:
1. Recognize that hybrid working is here to stay — and operationalize it with well-being in mind.
There’s no going back from the flexible work trend fast-tracked by COVID. Today’s CRE executives have an opportunity to tailor a model that supports well-being wherever an employee may work.
After all, being able to work remotely on occasion can support work-life balance goals, reduce commute times and potentially free up time to exercise or relax. But coming into a shared office space that supports people’s workflow can anchor the employee experience by inviting healthy social interaction, fostering movement, and connecting employees with in-person health and wellness programming.
2. Invest in new or enhanced health and well-being amenities.
Workplace strategists expect to push forward investment in health and well-being amenities. This might include creating or refreshing meditation or fitness rooms, carving out more outdoor space, or updating infrastructure to maximize employee comfort.
Increasing investments to improve indoor air quality or expanding dedicated rest and recharge spaces, such as outdoor areas and/or roof gardens, are among the most common workplace amenities CRE leaders anticipate strengthening in the years ahead.
3. Adopt well-being technology.
Health-tech well-being solutions are also high on the must-adopt list. Wearables that monitor an individual’s energy levels, blood sugar, steps, oxygen consumption and other biometrics and nudge the wearer when it’s time to take action to reduce stress or get some more physical activity are in vogue. Embedded sensors can also help companies understand usage patterns and inform future design updates to accommodate employees’ needs.
Health-tech well-being solutions came in at number six of the top technologies that organizations plan to introduce between now and 2025.
4. Get help from external partners.
Corporate real estate needs are becoming more sophisticated and complicated than ever. A full 75% of CRE leaders surveyed anticipate more reliance on external partners in the near future. When asked which activities CRE leaders expect to be performed most through outsourcing, health and well-being services came in first — with 44% of respondents expecting more outsourcing in the next 3 years.
By seeking input from specialists aligned to their priority areas of investment, companies can shape a workplace ecosystem that sparks employee health and well-being, while delivering on other strategic objectives.
Combining empathy and strategy for a healthier, happier workforce
The next three years will mark a crucial window of opportunity for companies to rethink their portfolios for a more resilient future. There is a window of opportunity between now and 2025 for decision-makers to bring their action plans to life and to meet the expectations of diverse stakeholders such as employees, executive leaders, shareholders and local communities.
Leading CRE teams are using that time to put humans first — one health and well-being design element at a time.