Wellbeing is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy’. Over the next few pages we hope to show you just a few of the fantastic comfort – health – and joy-inducing initiatives being undertaken by some of our leading manufacturers, designers, organisations and individuals.
We asked a group of experts from the ‘Mix Family’ to tell us what the biggest change they have seen, first hand, that has come as a direct result of implementing wellbeing and sustainability practices is.
There is no doubt that the subject of sustainability and health and wellbeing are tricky ones. The cynical just wonder if all this interest in betterment is a simple ruse to sell; sell more consultancy, sell more products or simply charge more.
Others would suggest the general wave of interest in mind and body at work is long overdue and are completely convinced we should have a better world of happier and healthier people.
Whichever your stand point is, there is little doubt that, like many contentious subjects, the tide of interest is growing; in much the same way as the general distrust of politicians and train bosses, admittedly in a slightly less angry way.
Naomi Jones, Associate Partner at Shepard Robson, told us that ‘the lines are blurring in the corporate world: more and more we are taking inspiration from the hospitality and residential worlds. The next question is how we can push this even further. Perhaps this will be the development of a UK-specific criteria and accreditation that will look at the care of a company’s biggest asset – its people – from new perspectives’.
Michelle Wilkie, Director at tp bennett, says: ‘A workplace design that aims to increase the wellbeing of staff is becoming a vital element of business strategy across employment sectors. Increasingly, CEOs are consulting workplace and wellness specialists to help them develop a robust workplace strategy that supports their employees and considers their physical and mental wellbeing.’
Michelle highlights the need to accommodate multi-generational behaviours and provide a flexible workplace design, which strikes a balance for all.
Michelle also suggests designers should not be looking at the differences but what we have in common, suggesting that our commonality could be our affiliation to nature and that, due to the length of time spent indoors, biophilic design offers an opportunity to ‘increase our interactions with nature by introducing internal planting, natural daylight and circadian lighting, earthy tones and natural materials to our interior landscape’. She concludes: ‘A working environment that is designed with a ‘human-centred’ approach, and that nurtures physical and emotional needs, will encourage employees to develop positive working behaviours to the benefit of themselves, their colleagues, their employers and their home lives.’
Food for thought. Over the following pages, we have brought together a delightful mix of views on this ridiculously broad subject. We hope you pick up something you didn’t already know.
While in Chicago earlier this year (at the NeoCon furniture fair) we had a chat with Humanscale. More specifically, the company’s Sustainability Officer, Jane Abernethy, and newly-appointed Chief Marketing Officer, Leena Jain. We were drawn to speak about the brand new Smart Ocean chair, made partly from discarded fishing nets. We also caught up with David Stover from Ben Knappers, who supplied the nets.
David and Ben from Bureo are your archetypal healthy-looking young men. They have a passion and an opportunity, and they are seizing the day. Their business is based on an issue that most of us have been fearful of for some time and has now, fortunately, been brought to the surface by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series – plastic in our oceans. It has been estimated that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste in our oceans and that fishing nets account for almost 10% of that.
Like Humanscale, Interface are renowned for their efforts, including the latest carbon neural initiative. When they launched BeautifulThinking, a collaborative formed by Interface and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), their aims included providing financial opportunities for poorer communities, whilst cleaning up our oceans and beaches. The partnership was born out of a shared ambition to redesign a supply chain to benefit communities and the natural environment. The nets are regenerated into a nylon yarn, which provides a continuous source of fully recycled materials for use in carpet tiles.
Whilst David Stover (former Ernst a Young manager) and Ben Kneppers (who seems to have spent his life involved in environmental projects) are achieving great things, they are keen to ensure this is just the beginning. Now some five years in to the project, we asked David to give us an insight.
Are you on track to achieve your big plans? ‘We are working towards reaching an annual recycling volume of one million kilograms (1,000 metric tons) within the next five years. In line with the goals of the Humanscale project, we are aiming to rapidly scale impacts through replicating the collection and recycling of fishing nets in South America. The track we are on continues to evolve, but now more than ever we have a clear focus to expand our recycling programme and find partners to support these efforts through integration of recycled fishing nets.
What is the biggest issue getting in the way right now? ‘We are working with an immature commodity. There are still issues to work through on the processing, delivery and price levels of the material. As we are able to scale the programme and volumes, we will gain efficiencies that will enable wider adoption of the material.’
What have you been most surprised about – both negatively and positively? ‘Beginning in 2012 with a simple idea to collect and recycle nets, we continue to be caught off guard by the level of traction the brand and story continues to gain. While we have been fortunate enough to work with amazing brands on products to inspire, we continue to learn how difficult it is to go against the grain to integrate a non-traditional material into an existing supply chain.’
What is your dream? ‘A healthy ocean that is free of plastic pollution.’
How did you first have contact with Humanscale? ‘We connected with Humanscale at a Living Futures Conference, where we were discussing positive impact products. Jane Abernathy (from Humanscale) met with Ben Kneppers (Bureo co-founder) to explore the opportunity of integrating recycled nylon into Humanscale products – it was a natural fit!’
If you remember just one thing from this article, consider what David says here: ‘In nature, there’s simply no such thing as waste – everything has a purpose. By taking this as our inspiration, we can create opportunities for reinvention and establish a better future for generations to come.’
The Sleep Doctor
We were fortunate enough to spend some time with Dr Neil Stanley – the Sleep Doctor (our name, not his). Neil is a consultant at lighting specialists FUTURE Designs and the author of ‘How to Sleep Well’ – and he might just change your life! Here, he reveals a number of commonly held sleep myths…
‘Blue’ light is bad for us.
We’re often told that ‘blue’ light is bad for us. This is due to the connotations with the light emitted from smartphone, tablet or computer screens.
Light, particularly daylight, has a profound effect on sleep and alertness. When it is dark, the brain produces melatonin, which signals to the body that it’s time to sleep. Light, particularly in the blue part of the spectrum, signals to the brain that it is daytime. So it is true that high levels of cool, ‘blue’ light are bad for us when we’re preparing to or trying to sleep. But during the working day, when it is necessary to be alert, blue light is our friend.
I helped lighting experts FUTURE Designs demonstrate these effects through a monitored sleep experiment at FUTURE’s new Clerkenwell technology hub earlier in the summer. We created two rooms, each with a controlled lighting environment. One was lit with cool white light (regularly referred to as ‘blue’ light) and one with warm white light. Two volunteers spent 24 hours under these lighting conditions – one in the warm and one in the cool light. Both were assessed throughout the 24 hours on their levels of alertness and on their mood.
As predicted, both were affected by these lighting conditions – cool white light made it difficult to settle for the night.
Warm white light made concentration on work during the day a little challenging. The volunteer here would have benefitted from cool white light to enable higher levels of alertness and concentration.
So ‘blue’ light is bad for us if we’re attempting to sleep. In fact, all light is. Studies show that even ‘blue’ light filters make little difference. Turn everything off and get blackout curtains to sleep well.
But during the day, cool ‘blue’ light keeps you alert, awake and functioning at your best.
Eight hours a night is essential for quality sleep.
There are no hard and fast rules about the amount of sleep each of us needs. We all have our own individual need. The normal range is anywhere between 4-11 hours and, like height, is genetically determined. Therefore, you need to get the right amount of sleep for you. This is the amount of sleep that allows you to feel awake and vital the next day. If you are sleepy during the day, you are probably not getting enough sleep at night.
There is no such thing as too much sleep.
Like anything else, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, scientific evidence has shown that too much sleep is just as harmful to your health and wellbeing as too little.
You can train your body to need less sleep and reduce your need to four or five hours a night.
Some people naturally need less sleep than others but while you may ‘get by’ on less sleep than you need, you cannot train yourself to ‘need’ less sleep. Just one hour less sleep than you need is likely to negatively impact your health, performance and mood. Longer-term partial sleep deprivation is associated with a greater risk of a number of diseases including heart disease, depression, diabetes and obesity.
Sleeping in separate beds/bedrooms means the relationship is in trouble.
Many people sleep better with the warmth and security of another person next to them, however, much of your sleep disturbance is caused by your bed partner – so some prefer to sleep alone. This is a perfectly natural thing to do and might even improve your relationship because by sleeping better you will be happier, less tired and less resentful of the other person.
If you miss out on sleep during the week you can catch up by having a lie-in at the weekend.
Catching up on missed sleep is important but a lie-in on the weekend can actually add to sleep disruption and increase sleepiness. Our bodies respond better to regular sleep patterns and the weekend lie-in is disruptive to this pattern. This is why getting up on Monday morning can be so difficult!
People need less sleep as they get older.
Older people don’t need less sleep, but they do find it more difficult to get the sleep they need and therefore will find their sleep less refreshing. This is because, as people age, they spend less time in the deep, restful stages of sleep – so their sleep is lighter and consequently they are more easily awakened. Older people are also more likely to have insomnia or other medical conditions that disrupt their sleep.
FUTURE Designs is developing concepts based on Human Centric Lighting, which puts emphasis on the visual and non-visual effects of lighting design. The WELL Building Standard promotes buildings designed specifically for human wellbeing and the betterment of human health. Light is one of the seven areas that WELL covers, and Human Centric Lighting will be one of the future trends to emphasise wellbeing in the workplace.
Dr Neil Stanley will be signing copies of his new book How to Sleep Well
on Tuesday 25th September, 5-7pm,
at Future Designs new technology hub,
The Clerkenwell Lighthouse, Dallington Street, Clerkenwell, London, EC1V 0BB.
As workplace design specialists, BroomeJenkins are interested in the growing realisation that wellbeing is a crucial part of making a safe, attractive and effective workplace. Those entering the workforce from school and university have an affinity with digital technology and a different set of values to their parents. We thought it was interesting, therefore, when Barry Jenkins of BroomeJenkins to set a project and work with the second year Product Design students at Bournemouth University earlier this year to explore workplace wellbeing.
Working in eleven teams, Barry worked with course tutor Franziska Conrad to provide a background to the workplace and objectives for this short project. As a group, the students were quick to identify a series of core issues faced in the modern workplace. As a peer group, they were keen to create healthy environments that nurtured physical and mental wellbeing. As designers, they knew that technology would play a part, and that comfort and wellbeing is largely a physical problem. Then, drawing on their own research, experience and perceptions of the workplace, they identified a range of topics including noise control, nutrition, social cohesion, comfort, rest and air quality.
It has been reported that 30% of millennials do not consume instant or machine made coffee, in favour of freshly made beverages and herbal infusions. It was no surprise therefore, that one team presented a well researched analysis of the health benefits of drinking herbal infusions, and designed a modular station that used food waste from, say, packed lunches to provide nutrients to grow herbs like mint and camomile. Their aim was to create an amenity that addressed the issues of recycling food waste and to provide fresh sustainable ingredients in the workplace.
Several groups were concerned by air quality and the psychological benefits of having some degree of personal control over one’s immediate environment. This led to proposals for creating localised airflow and ventilation. The ideas ranged from an organic vertical blade-like fan, designed to be scalable and described by the designers as a ‘modern twist on biophilia’, through to a slim wearable device that sat around the user’s neck, recharged using a USB socket.
Turning towards emotional needs, the idea that community and social engagement is important for mental wellbeing came through in a number of proposals. One used digital display technology to create ‘collaborative office art’. Designed to change through user interaction, it was a playful idea that had some symbolic benefit in graphically representing co-workers that may otherwise be dispersed, possibly working remotely. As an idea, it took the form of a large pixelated display tile, although it could equally become an app for a mobile device or screen saver for a PC or laptop.
Much has been written about the way the millennial workforce is impacting corporate cultures and the style of workplaces. One aspect of this narrative is that the workplace is characterised by a relaxed style of interior design and all kinds of props. However, in a recent study of 8,000 millennials by Deloittes, flexible working was rated as being the most beneficial and attractive aspect of a modern workplace, and facilities like foosball tables, beach huts and slides, generally seen as distractions.
Although new ways of working and open collaborative workplaces benefit both employer and employee, is it patronising to think that graduates and school leavers need to be ‘coaxed’ into work by what could be regarded as gimmicks, when all they really want is meaningful paid employment in an effective and safe work environment?
Each team involved in the project had their own approach and executed their designs differently. Their motivation and values were consistent and evident in their ability to work in teams to quickly identify a problem to be addressed. Their approach confirmed some of the demographic traits expected of ‘twenty-somethings’, and was also clear that, for this generation of designers, the scope of possible design solutions is limitless. In terms of execution, their knowledge of new sustainable materials and efficient additive manufacturing expands the realm of realisation. However, the overriding consideration was the importance of the user, and whether the design proposals would be beneficial and valued.
‘Meet the Future Human’
Over the three days, the programme explored how evolving end-user needs may shape working environments in the future.
Up to now, the ‘Future of Work’ dialogue has largely been focused on technological advancements. At CDW, Tarkett took the conversation in a different direction – honing in on the human response to the commercial settings of today and tomorrow. Importantly, considering how changes in work and lifestyle habits may impact our interpretation of health and wellbeing moving forwards.
Drawing on the UK findings of a European-wide survey of 2,500 office workers, Tarkett invited leading futurologist, Tom Cheesewright, to take these insights and reimagine a new way of thinking, acting and functioning in a workplace context.
The research was conducted by OnePoll across five European countries (500 respondents in each territory): UK, France, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden.
We caught up with the Cheesemeister
Applied Futurist Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK’s leading futurist speakers, commentators and consultants on technology and tomorrow. We were able to sit and chat with the man from the future…
What has changed?
We were trying to put this transition, the changing nature of work, into context. Not what’s happening but why it’s happening. It comes down to what businesses need/want to get out of people in the workplace that has changed. If we rewind to the last century, it was about input and output – the more work you put into people, the more you would get out of them. That isn’t the case anymore. A classic cliché now is that companies who were once at the top of their game are, a few years later, going nowhere – ie. Nokia and Blackberry. They’ve reinvented themselves as service organisations and are now reinventing as artificial intelligence organisations. They’ll probably do it quite successfully and have a good track record, like Microsoft – the biggest company in the world, having successfully reinvented themselves.
When did this significant change occur?
With the shift from global corporations operating primarily face-to-face and by telephone, to operating digitally. They can stop operating as a single organisation and start operating a network.
Management theory books from the last century are all about optimisation – the theory that we can make more for less. This is still the theory for many managers now, squeezing more out of people. The lesson for companies such as Blockbusters and Nokia is that, if you abide by this theory, you will run yourself into a brick wall. You should focus instead on what you will do differently tomorrow. Prioritise agility over optimisation, which drives many types of changes in how you work. 70% of people work more hours than they are contracted for, paid or unpaid – which is a hangover from people trying to squeeze more out of employees.
If I have to work beyond the hours, I’m either being inefficient or there will be no result. If you look at Scandinavian countries and how they operate, they are much stricter on their working hours and much more flexible in allowing workers to do what they need to get things done.
That’s changing now, isn’t it? The design of the workplace is impacted by the flexibility of working hours.
Productivity works best when people are focused on outcome rather than the typical, rigid work hours. Different behaviours come at this point, when the company’s strategies are being met and understood. Changing design around flexibility is often driven by costs.
When you focus on maximising creativity and being agile, you should change the design of the workplace to fit with this.
How do you maximise interactions between people in different functions/departments?
My core working hours are 6am-11am. I believe that having this flexibility makes me more productive – this is something you still would not get in 90% of workplaces. The reality of this is enormous and these conversations are a long way away from being adopted by the less open tiers of middle management.
One of the drivers for change for workplace transformation has been, ‘look what they’re doing!’ In your view is this an acceptable route for developing the workplace environment?
People need to acknowledge the need to do things differently.
So this is something you think will filter down naturally?
Yes, in particular areas, such as software developers. Google and Facebook, for example, have a clear motivation to create environmentally friendly workplaces, which existing companies may ridicule for being colourful and filled with ball pools, labelling this as necessary for ‘productivity’ and being a coworking space. That does not, sadly, translate into law firms or accountancies, where the demand may not be as high.
What might change this?
The realisation of what we need to get out of people will spread slowly. We need an environment that gives the inspiration to increase flexibility, instead of one that focuses on optimising the amount of work done. Once companies begin to focus on these important things, the design of the workplace and how it should be used will become clear.
Also, the workforce is now starting to demand more from their management.
Tom: There is now a lesser belief that you accept what you are given, accept the rules and accept that you have to abide to by those – and the hierarchy above you.
So there is a bigger appreciation of the economical value of design?
It’s a bigger part of culture – value-based appreciation.
The British Council of Offices (BCO) recently embarked on a major study. The study was initiated against a backdrop of rapidly increasing awareness of the connection between the office environment, the health & wellbeing of building occupants and, in turn, the impact on measures of business performance including productivity.
As the survey undertaken by this project shows, there is a lack of awareness presently about how health & wellbeing should be addressed and who should take the lead across the distinct points within an office building’s lifecycle – from site acquisition, through design, construction, operation, refurbishment and eventual repurposing and recycling.
The sector is faced with competing frameworks for assessment, a raft of new processes, new disciplines to swell the ranks of project teams, uncertainties around the strength and relevance of the evidence base and concerns around the cost to respond. In the face of unprecedented complexity there is a genuine risk that projects will disengage and the benefits of a proactive approach to health & wellbeing – to businesses and office workers – will be lost.
The study critiques existing health & wellbeing measurement and certification, identifies the most recent and relevant medical evidence justifying a proactive approach to health & wellbeing in the built environment, and articulates the business case for investment in this space beyond simply improving productivity. Most significantly, this research delivers a practical and professional guide to creating a healthy environment across the different stages of a building’s life cycle, from design, construction and leasing to the most important aspect by time and value; occupation and asset management.
There is still a perception in the industry that health & wellbeing is ‘just something an occupier does in its fit-out and staff management’ and, by association, investors, developers and designers need not concern themselves
The report was previewed at the BCO conference in Berlin, this May, having been led by a consortium of Sentinel RPI, Elementa Consulting, Perkins +Will and Will+Partner’s, backed by medical and academic input from Royal Brompton, Imperial College and Queen Mary University. Evidence was reviewed from the USA, Europe and globally. The findings inform the next BCO Guide to Specification, which is the industry-recognised standard for best practice in office development across the UK, also due to be published in early 2019.
Elaine Rossall, Chairman of the British Council for Offices’ Research Committee, commented: ‘The health & wellness agenda is, rightly, growing in importance and prominence. ‘Wellness Matters’ responds to this, and provides practical advice to BCO members on the issues surrounding health & wellbeing in offices and what they can do about it.
‘There is still a perception in the industry that health & wellbeing is ‘just something an occupier does in its fit-out and staff management’ and, by association, investors, developers and designers need not concern themselves. We fundamentally challenge that – there are opportunities throughout a building’s lifecycle to enable change. Successful intervention should manifest in shorter voids for developers; greater income retention for investors and healthier, happier staff for occupiers who will gain from better recruitment and retention.’
Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the BCO, said: ‘The work achieved in this study will represent a significant step in the industry’s understanding of health & wellbeing. The team has provided real academic rigour and engineering know-how, along with enthusiasm for the subject matter and its impact. We are delighted with the initial peer review and government response. It is one of the BCO’s most significant studies.’
Highlights from the study include its lessons for government. In creating the Wellness Matters Roadmap it became clear that the benefits from improved office wellness – and the costs of a failure to act – flow not only to individuals and organisations, but also to communities and the country as a whole. These impacts can be quantified, for example, through reduced costs of health and social care and increased productivity.
With wellness standards largely emanating from the USA and a low profile afforded to the research and guidance developed in the UK, we risk undervaluing the deep expertise in British public health, workplace wellbeing and medical research. Yet substantive national guidance on workplace health & wellbeing exists – published by bodies such as the NHS, Public Health England and the Health & Safety Executive.
The Future – Wellness is Changing
- Our understanding of wellness is constantly evolving, the pace of change has been accelerated by the revolution in data collection and analysis.
- Transparency and disclosure is driving the industry towards refurbishment of the worst performing existing buildings to move them from sickness to health.
- Businesses that invest in health & wellbeing are reaping the rewards of increased productivity, lower costs from illness and enhanced reputation.
- Legislation and regulation will evolve, closing the gap between best practice and business as usual.
- Greater awareness of the health impacts of materials within buildings, and upon those that produce them, will transform supply chains.
Recycling – from the Manufacturer’s Point of View
We asked the question as to which organisation is up there at the top of the league of manufacturing recyclers. Many named Senator. With over a dozen environmental and sustainability awards in the last seven years, they have created their own business called Sustain, with two recycling centres in the UK that help with recycling and remanufacture of old furniture.
We spoke to Oli Clarke at The Senator Group, who is the man who drove much of their environmental policy.
What is your role at Senator? ‘Previously my role was the manager of our Sustain department, now I’ve got a broader role in the business. My job title is Strategic Business Projects, where I get involved with all sorts of fun things, from our ISO/Audit/Governance teams through to big capital projects, and I’m still responsible for Sustain.’
Have you grown to appreciate ‘sustainability’ or is it something you have always been interested in? ‘Being truthful, a bit of both. We’ve always had an interest in it, as it’s the right thing to do for any business (in our eyes), but it’s like a never ending journey, so as soon as you do some work on it, you realise how much more is possible.’
Can you give us some numbers in terms of Senator’s sustainability? ‘Our view of sustainability is more focused on material and energy usage, as we’re a manufacturer (I guess other companies/industries have different focuses). From an operational point of view, we typically report on our recycling rate (the percentage of our waste that is recycled) and the amount of different types of material that is recycled in-house. From a product point of view, we produce Environmental Product Analysis sheets which show all the sustainability info about products, which mainly focuses on recycled content, recyclability and carbon footprints…which is another minefield!’
In simple terms, what is Sustain and what part do you play in it? ‘Sustain is a part of and brand within The Senator Group, which deals with all sustainability and environmental issues. It is where all the materials are recycled and where our remanufacturing service is run from. My role was to set Sustain up 10 years ago, and now we’ve got a team that run it on a day-to-day basis, but they report to myself, so ultimately it is my responsibility.’
How successful has Sustain been? ‘Quite successful. It’s gone from strength to strength each year. There are 16 staff fully employed working in Sustain, and turnover is around £1.2m. Obviously, nothing is ever perfect and everything could be improved, but we’re really pleased with how much it’s achieved.’
You have a high recycling rate of 97.7% and nothing from your desking or seating factory ever goes to landfill. Where do you go from here? ‘First and foremost, we’ve got to maintain these high standards, which takes a lot of effort from a lot of people. Looking longer term, reuse is next up from recycling. Although we reuse a lot of packaging as a business (200,000 items each year) we should be looking at how other items could be reused. It’s inherently difficult with office furniture though, as the market isn’t really set up for reuse.’
It’s difficult to know what the other major UK manufactures are doing but how do you think they compare? ‘There are lots of ways we can find out – we share a lot of the same supplier and customer base, so you can always hear things through the grapevine and you also get a good idea from the questions being asked on contracts and tenders. We’ve got a lot of good sales managers as well, who will pass on information to us as and when they find it. There are industry initiatives like FISP, where us and other manufacturers get together, so you can get a surprising amount of information if you look around. From what I know (not very much!), other manufacturers do a fair bit of recycling, but I think Senator does the most by volume.’
What surprises you most about the lack of recycling knowledge in this industry? ‘Two things really: when people say things like ‘you can’t recycle material X’ when I know we’re doing it in-house (polystyrene is a great example of this) or when people don’t want to pay for a recycling service as they want it for free, as they’re unaware of how much landfill skips and waste disposal costs these days.’
What gets on your nerves? ‘Personally, people not doing what they say they’re going to do or lying about things.’
What is a realistic hope in 20 years’ time regarding furniture manufacturing and recycling? Recycle less? ‘Yes, this should be happening in 5-10 years really – we’ll start to recycle less as we’ll be reusing more. Like most industries, everything has to get linked together better for it to work though. The recycling industry has to be able to provide better recycled materials for component manufacturers, furniture manufacturers have got to be committed to using recycled/reused components and offer take back schemes, as do their suppliers, customers have to change their buying habits and accept that the quality of reused components and new are the same, the testing and accreditation houses need to help make this happen and push these standards through. Nothing is impossible, but it will just take time for the industry to shift how it operates.’
Do you think the government should impose more pressure on the manufacturing industry? ‘This is a tricky one, it’s too simple to just say ‘yes’, as there are lots of implications for the current supply chain, and too much pressure too quickly will have a negative impact, in my view. Over the longer term then there will have to be some kind of incentive or dis-incentive to promote or push it from Central government. There have been a few examples of where pressure was put on from government, which had the opposite effect of what they’ve set out to achieve. I think the manufacturing industry is more than happy to be consulted on the issue, and if a proper thought out and agreed plan was put into place then it has to be the right thing to do.’
What are your thoughts on carbon offsetting? ‘I think it’s a great idea as, in theory, it balances out the ‘bad’ activities with ‘good’ activities. However, I’ve got two major issues with the theory – why aren’t we doing more good activities anyway ourselves (not another company on the other side of the world) and why aren’t we looking at fixing the underlying problems (the bad activities) rather than the symptoms (producing more carbon). That’s why our view as a business on carbon offsetting is quite strong, we don’t want to use it as a marketing activity or as a ‘get out of jail free card’, we’d much rather put our time and effort into something we can and should control, which are our own daily activities.’
‘We do more than anyone in the industry’. That’s a bold statement. How do you achieve that? ‘There are the obvious things, like winning industry awards and accolades, but it goes a lot deeper than that. We’ve got a culture of continuous improvement and a ‘never completely satisfied’ attitude, which means we always strive to do more. At Senator we talk about the ‘but’ a lot in meetings, for example, ‘we did really well last month, but how could we do it better?’ or ‘recycling is up to 98%, but what do we need to do to get up to 99%?’ That line of thinking means you never settle and constantly push on.
‘It’s very difficult to directly compare to other companies without the raw data, but customers tell us we do more than anyone else.
Do clients (A&D, dealers, end users) really care about your sustainability credentials? ‘From a personal point of view, yes. The people I speak to seem to take it very seriously. That said, the people I speak to probably have an interest in it and that’s why they’re speaking to me (if that makes sense?). I do think people do consider sustainability a lot more now than, say, five years ago, which mirrors how people act at home (recycling and sustainability in the news a lot more, councils changing their general waste bins collection etc).
‘From a company point of view, I really hope so, as it shows that all our hard work for the past 10 years means something to other people as well as to us.’
Cutting out the Commute
With more millennials joining the workforce – a generation that places a premium on wellbeing, seeking both stimulation and sanctuary from their environment, blurring the boundaries of work and play – the appetite for a rigid work/life balance intersected by a commute has all but disappeared. Mark Cannell, Partner at London & Oriental gives us his take…
As work/life distinctions have merged, many hard-working professionals, including those with families, don’t want long commutes. Low maintenance living near workplaces is the new lifestyle choice for a wellbeing-conscious workforce.
Demographic and cultural shifts have combined to generate a desire among the workforce to live in urban areas, where people naturally want to gather together, encouraging a culture that’s conducive to collaboration, allowing for connections to be made and shared across networks.
These networks are more valuable if they include people from other organisations and sectors – and are far easier to foster in an environment in which the personal and the professional spheres of life are inextricably intertwined.
What’s more, with more millennials joining the workforce, the appetite for a rigid work/life balance intersected by a commute has all but disappeared.
Yet, while millennials are at the forefront of a new way of thinking, they’re not the only ones making the most of it. Those with children, and indeed those thinking of starting a family, often assume that a house move to the suburbs is a prerequisite – but this is no longer the case. By living near their place of work in the city, professionals can cut out the commute in favour of more quality time at home – or even indulging in a post-work trip to the pub with colleagues.
Attracting and retaining talent is a crucial consideration for a business. Companies are beginning to recognise this shift in culture, and they too are embracing city life. Smart leaders are recognising that the workforce is drawn to the dynamism that an urban environment offers and, in response, are integrating these influences back into their businesses.
But how best to make the most of this new lifestyle choice? Mixed use. According to an insight from JLL, there is a trend towards mixed used developments – with people in search of a sense of place, curated around a strong retail and leisure offering.
We’re proud to be among the developers catering to this demand. Our new Buckingham Green development is a comprehensive rebirth of 64-65 Buckingham Gate, once the HQ of Rolls Royce, to create a new mixed use community situated between Victoria and St James’s in Westminster, London SW1.
When complete, it will comprise three distinctive buildings, designed by Fletcher Priest Architects, set within a vibrant new public realm – destined to become one of the capital’s most appealing residential addresses, as well as a premier office and leisure location. Each private rented sector apartment within The Tower at 64 Buckingham Gate will be unique in size and lay out, with carefully curated interiors, designed by industry experts TH2, benefitting from 24-hour security and concierge services, as well as basement car and cycle parking.
At 65 Buckingham Gate, office occupiers will be able to create the spaces they need, thanks to the flexible layouts. The double-height, fully-glazed lobby, featuring the finest Italian Carrara marble, will provide an appropriately elegant entrance.
Buckingham Green also includes The Caxton at 1 Brewers Green, which will provide over 28,000 sq ft of Grade A office space and prime retail units in a newly constructed building of richly articulated, handmade red brick – inspired by the area’s rich architectural heritage. In addition, we’re creating a large roof garden and private terraces exclusively for occupiers’ use. Further office accommodation and retail space will be available in the Gate House, with its rounded exterior curves and intricate trellis façade.
We’ve created the framework for a community with an emphasis on wellbeing at its centre; where people enjoy living, working, shopping and spending time. By the end of the year, our community will experience the full benefit of life at Buckingham Green – with minimum maintenance and easy access to exceptional leisure opportunities in this new London neighbourhood. Additionally, we’ve invested in outstanding architecture and public realm design, to create an engaging space where people from the wider area will want to get together too.
The Case for Counterbalance Sit/Stand Desks
The case for sit/stand products has been widely discussed and, in our view, is in danger of becoming both an obsession and even a little divisive. We are grateful to Dale Higgins, Sit/Stand Sales Director for Humanscale International for giving his fulsome view. It goes without saying that other manufacturers would be equally capable of putting across their case.
The topic of sit/stand has matured into a household discussion. It’s the first remedy that any physiologist or chiropractor will recommend to combat workplace-related injuries, yet the industry is still governed by one key element: cost.
As organisations become more aware of the dangers of sedentary positions, they seek to quickly and cost-effectively convert static desks to sit/stand solutions, often selecting an electric desk solution (e-desk) because of its lower initial cost. However, there are a number of hidden costs and downfalls to this option that will be realised throughout the lifecycle of the product.
The one key factor most organisations in search of a healthier workplace for their staff overlook is time. Time to activate anything in the workplace needs to be minimised to maximise user efficiency. Efficiency, after all, is the key driving force behind the sit/stand movement. Maximising the amount of effective time users have at their workstations, doing what they are paid to do.
The number one ‘Achilles Heel’ of the e-desk is time to activate. Imagine if the main doors to the office took 15 seconds to open and another 15 seconds to close, whilst producing 50-60 decibels of noise in the process. Over time, the motivation to use that door to walk through would dwindle and, eventually, no one would use it in favour of easier, less disruptive avenues.
The same applies to any sit/stand workstation. Regardless of the positive health benefits, if it takes too long or is awkward in any way, the inclination to use it wears off and so does any intended benefits. Counterbalance sit/stand desks are more likely to be used because they are faster and more natural to the user.
As a simple calculation, it is helpful to consider the average salary of an employee in relation to the recommended sit/stand activity throughout the work day. If followed correctly, a user should stand for 12-15 minutes for every 45 minutes of sitting and alternate. Based on 15 seconds up and 15 seconds down, a person would use the sit/stand workstation eight times per day. That adds up to four minutes per day, 20 minutes per week or 88 minutes per month. Over the course of a year, the basic activity of raising and lowering the desk amounts to over 17 hours – time a company pays users to activate their workstations.
Another key consideration is the infrastructure costs. Implementation of an e-desk sit/stand workstation requires significantly more power than a regular static desk. It is for this reason that infrastructure costs on new builds are significantly higher today than in the past. The consumption of energy increases with the more e-desks in use at any given point, leading to higher electricity costs.
Last, but certainly not least, is the environmental factor. Any company listed on the LSE, EEU, NASDAQ or NYSE, or companies with an association to NYSE or NASDAQ listed organisations, have a mandatory responsibility to report CO2 emissions. As with anything in a commercial business, whatever heads to a landfill or creates CO2 needs to be reported. This can be from the gasoline required in a vehicle to deliver goods and services to the electricity required for lighting, computers and even e-desks. While the cost-per-ton of CO2 produced are fairly minimal at present, new evidence shows we are a long way from understanding the real ‘social costs’ of CO2 pollution on our environment and economies – a number that could see the current tariff increase by up to 600% in the coming years. Since electricity is not needed to power counterbalance desks, it significantly reduces CO2 emissions.
Counterbalance: Better for You and Better for the Environment
The simple solution to all of the above is non-electric, counterbalance desks. All of the above is negated through the use of this simple technology, allowing for desks that move as fast as you can, with zero electricity consumed or CO2 produced during the action. Counterbalance technology works similar to a playground seesaw, with constant force applied to the counterbalance mechanism. With the simple release of the brake paddle, the desk raises or lowers with minimal force, instantly. This constant activity raises mental alertness, negates any possible ailments from sedentary positions and allows users to spend more time doing what they do best.
What do you think of the WELL Standard?
Launched with great fanfare and covered this time last year in Mix, we have since picked up a massive variety of views on the WELL Standard and indeed other brands of ‘happy’ building certificates.
Some believe that these ‘certificates’ are really not necessary, while others feel it’s nothing but a good thing to raise the issue of health & wellbeing – and then, thirdly, there are others that believe that the whole thing is good but just too many hoops to jump through.
For their part, the US-based WELL has just launched ‘version two’ of the WELL standard very much in reaction, we believe, to that third point.
We are told that WELL v2 is now more flexible, to address local perspectives, languages and the most pressing health issues in different geographies, particularly in Europe.
Since the launch of WELL – billed as the first rating system to focus exclusively on the impacts of buildings on human health and wellness – there has been an explosion of interest in the idea of buildings as health intervention tools. Better data, more research and evidence is demonstrating the impact of buildings and communities on our health. The launch of WELL v2 reflects this latest thinking and knowledge gleaned from our users.
This second iteration includes a full suite of enhancements that advance the International WELL Building Institute’s (IWBI) global aim to build a healthier future for all. WELL v2 is informed by key lessons learned from the nearly 1,000 projects that are registered or certified in 34 countries across the world. Users can register for WELL v2 starting today.
‘Since our launch in 2014, we’ve learned a lot from the thousands of WELL users, practitioners and researchers who have embraced WELL as a tool for making buildings mechanisms to deliver health and wellness benefits for all,’ says IWBI Chief Product Officer, Rachel Gutter. ‘WELL v2 is our effort to consolidate the latest knowledge, leading research, new technology and advanced building practice to extend the benefits of WELL buildings to more people in more places.’
A truly global rating system, the intent behind WELL v2 is to empower project teams to pursue the interventions that matter most to their project and their community without sacrificing WELL’s comprehensive and evidence-based approach and commitment to performance verification.
Refinements and enhancements to the rating system include:
- A new feature set with fewer preconditions and weighted optimisations.
- A consolidation of multiple pilots into one WELL, and improvements to the ‘All Projects In’ approach introduced last year.
- New pathways to achieve intents, with a laser focus on feasibility for existing buildings and commercial interiors.
- An optional early phase review for projects wishing to earn a WELL D&O designation that affirms and celebrates progress towards WELL Certification.
- A new approach to performance verification, allowing projects to contract local providers.
- A commitment to equity through market- and sector-specific pricing, a focus on localisation and the introduction of a dynamic scorecard.
- A comprehensive and significant adjustment to pricing, including a new subscription option.
‘The IWBI team has worked tirelessly to aggregate the expert contributions of our worldwide community of users, researchers and thought leaders, whose hands-on engagement with WELL v2 is evident throughout,’ says IWBI CEO and Chairman, Rick Fedrizzi. ‘The result is a rating system that’s simpler, clearer, focused on the aspects that have the greatest impact, and designed for improved return across every metric. I’m especially excited about the significant cost efficiencies that have been built in, which will help spur uptake and increase accessibility to WELL for more market sectors.
‘With these changes, WELL v2 sharpens our ability to drive far-reaching change to buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive. We’re looking forward to the market’s feedback as we move through this pilot phase.’