Lara Conaway is the Sustainability Manager at Oktra. Here she gives a brilliant, down-to-earth appraisal of her craft.
We have all fallen for the magic word, wellbeing. There is a love-in of sorts going on in the office design industry, with everyone furiously incorporating the word into their webpages, blogs and client pitches.
In my years of being in the Design & Build industry, many of them focusing on sustainability, having a word that actually means something to the layperson is a joy. We even have a certificated process to aim for – the WELL Building Standard – which is rapidly gaining respect and traction.
There are undoubtedly plenty of enthusiasts behind the wellbeing approach. Why wouldn’t there be? It’s engaging, has a direct and measurable impact on the people it’s aimed at and encourages employers to go beyond the ‘that will do’ approach.
The power of how happy you personally feel runs deep, almost subconscious. Without even knowing it, your work environment has a direct impact on your overall wellbeing, both in the office and outside the office.
It’s not new of course. Now that wellbeing is firmly linked to productivity, there is interest from all types of businesses, not just the ones you expect – Google, Apple and the like.
We are currently implementing the WELL Building Standard in our own office. Our team of WELL Ambassadors are finding that there has rarely been a topic that has engaged people so quickly or garnered such involvement, ideas and enthusiasm.
There are the fence-sitters of course – quite an uncomfortable place to be for any length of time – the ones who probably find the middle lane of the M25 a more secure place, regardless of the reactions around them or issues caused. Challenged from both sides, particularly those who worry about the possible cost of implementing higher levels of wellbeing but know they should probably up their game. They hear from their colleagues that things could be better, more attention could be paid to how they feel in their office environment – but they still seem to remain on the fence.
Then there are the cynics at the other end of the spectrum. You can tell the approach they have from their opening questions: ‘Do I have to do it?’ or ‘Will it become law?’ – and the classic ‘How much will it cost?’ They doubt this approach will last, that it’s a fad or a gimmick. Why should they bother making sure that they have happier, healthier staff? They have a job, they’re reasonably paid, the office is okay and provides the basics with a desk, chair, tea, coffee and there are always more fish in the sea if people don’t like it.
Well that’s okay until you start losing good staff and can’t attract the cream of the university crop – and all because some simple actions weren’t put in place, like fruit in the office, work/life balance strategies and having a pleasant breakout space that gives people the ability for quiet time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had the polar opposite too – clients who immediately see that wellbeing has a direct correlation to their brand and business success and is what they have been trying to articulate without knowing how to.
In all honesty, this is not rocket science. How long has ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ been bandied around in common parlance? So much is common sense and can be implemented without fear of cost or upheaval. There are the options to certify and of course that will mean investment, but to steal the legendary Blind Date catchphrase, ‘The choice is yours’. There is a smorgasbord of wellbeing ideas, actions and approaches. My advice is to start browsing.