I recently had the pleasure of attending the CityWork conference in London which explored the topic of productivity and employee wellbeing. It was great to hear best practice examples, latest statistics and research from businesses such as CBRE, British Council of Offices, Virgin Pulse and Great Place to Work. Hundreds of HR professionals joined to soak up the talks, attend workshops and meet a variety of carefully selected sponsors.
A general theme throughout the day was the importance of having a wellbeing strategy in place that meets employee needs from an environmental, physical and mental standpoint. Gone are the days where a one-off bowl of fruit and a football table are considered enough. Wearable technology means we can now be smarter about our health and wellbeing. Air quality, light, the number of steps we take – we know more about our surroundings and expect a working environment that meets our needs.
Out of 30 million working people in the UK, 11 million work in an office environment – a number that has grown by 3 million in the last 30 years. That’s a huge number of people working in environments that are often not designed or optimised for productivity. Given the UK’s staggeringly high levels of sick leave, stress, burnout and low productivity, it is time to take wellbeing seriously.
Wellbeing has been proved to show a positive impact on the bottom line, especially when incremental changes are made. For example, Great Place to Work research showed that companies who take wellbeing seriously see a 2 to 7 per cent increase in turnover. As a result, financial analysts are beginning to look at a company’s employee engagement levels when making investment decisions.
Virgin Pulse also revealed insights from recent research on HR challenges and priorities. No matter what industry we work in, we all face similar challenges. So it was great to learn that wellbeing is one of HR’s top four priorities this year. In fact, two in five HR leaders say they would like to invest in wellbeing in the next three to nine months.
2017 HR priorities:
- Recruitment and retention
- Employee engagement
- HR resources
- Leadership buy-in
Main wellbeing drivers:
- Values aligned to leaders
- Teamwork and sense of community
- Recognition by line manager
- Work environment – equipped with the tools to do your best work
It is important to note that wellbeing can’t be ‘done to’ employees. To drive long term success, you must let employees take ownership of wellbeing and give them the right tools to make it happen in the most effective way. The conference also looked at how successful wellbeing is communicated by line managers who are equipped with the right technical and soft skills. If we want to see a real change and success with wellbeing programmes, management training needs to become a part of the strategy early on.
Top statistics from Great Place to Work, Bupa and Forbes:
- Better workplaces find it easier to attract talent, typically resulting in a 40 per cent increase in applications.
- Better workplaces can halve the rate of sickness and avoid burnout.
- 2016-2017 saw a 20 per cent decrease in productivity in the UK.
- People are 60 per cent more productive when they are happy and well.
- 54 per cent say the office environment is mentally damaging.
- 95 per cent of HR leaders experience burnout.
- 2016-2017 saw 12.5 million days lost due to stress and illness.
- 78 per cent of millennials see quality of workplace as pivotal when applying for jobs.
- 69 per cent of millennials choose environment over other benefits.
I had the pleasure of joining a workshop with Lewis Beck, Head of Workplace at CBRE, who shared details of its research into a world-class employee experience in the workplace. It was interesting to learn how architects who take a human-centric approach to building office environments can boost employee performance and wellbeing. Overall results showed that 10 per cent less mental effort was needed in enhanced office spaces.
CBRE’s research was conducted over seven months with 120 people in two control groups to see if wellbeing initiatives had an impact on employee performance. The first control group received no wellbeing improvements at work and showed a higher risk of burnout. The second control group got new lighting, natural spaces, healthy food, mindfulness training and physical activities; the following percentages show accuracy test improvements in this group compared to the first one:
- Healthy food: 45 per cent
Reduction of caffeine and sugar intake, plus healthy options made available (smoothies, fruit, nuts and fruit infused water).
- Mindfulness: 30 per cent
Included onsite massage and mindfulness video training.
- Physical activity: 12 per cent
Included cycling at desks, standing meetings, yoga balls.
- Lighting: 12 per cent
Orange-tinted overhead lighting replaced with blue-tinted side and desk lighting.
- Natural spaces: 10 per cent
Plant and artwork on the walls around the office – whether fake or real, both had a positive impact.
Overall the conference provided fascinating research and statistics, as well as the opportunity to meet new people working in HR with similar challenges and great experiences. It is clear that having a wellbeing strategy in place can drive a more productive workplace in the long run. A great way to get leadership buy-in is to use the right statistics to show the impact of doing things wrong. At theblueballroom we love implementing this sort of strategy and have lots of experience in getting leadership buy-in. If you would like to chat about your current challenges, do get in touch. To learn more about future CityWork conferences, visit its website or twitter page.