Over the past few years, companies have caught on to the green wave, designing and building offices that meet rising environmental and green standards.
Many bosses understand that building environmentally friendly buildings, in line with standards such as the LEED developed by the US green Building Council, not only help cushion the impact on the environment but also help to burnish their corporate image.
But few companies have paid much attention to the impact of offices on the people who use it – at least until recently.
A group of professionals, led by former financier Paul Scalia, founded the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) in 2013. It is a public benefit corporation that aims to promote health and wellness in buildings and communities and it developed the WELL standard, which measures the impact of workspaces on its occupants’ health and well-being.
As Scalia notes, the US$4 trillion green industry has so far focused on issues such as cutting energy costs and making waste management more efficient. But the human element, which accounts for a larger part of the company’s bottom line, is less important. This should be reversed, says Xuchao Wu, Head of Energy and Sustainability Services for Greater China at JLL.
“Nearly ninety percent of our time is spent in buildings,” notes Wu. “So it’s natural that we should ensure that people have a healthy space in which to work and live.”
Making office workers live, work and eat WELL
Like LEED, WELL sets standards for the design, construction and management of a facility according to industry best practices and meticulously researched metrics. While LEED measures the impact of a building or a space on the environment, WELL focuses on the impact of office or facility on its occupants.
Under WELL, buildings are assessed using seven factors – Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind. These seven concepts are then further broken down into more than 100 factors that take into account in the quality of air, water, and light within a space. Some factors focus on creating opportunities for staff to incorporate fitness and comfort into their work days, while others are aimed at encouraging companies to promote healthy food cultures while designing offices that encourage innovation and emotional health.
The objective behind the 100 metrics is a simple one: Developing a space in which people can thrive through working productively, eat healthily and innovate continuously.
Here’s one example: JLL’s Shanghai office is equipped with a built-in fitness room, which accommodates the company’s yoga classes and other activities. The office also has a mix of adjustable-height desks, high tables, and lounge areas that accommodate varying work styles – spaces designed specially to boost employee health and productivity.
JLL Shanghai is one of the first companies to attempt the Well Platinum standard. And more companies in China are realizing that it pays to focus on employees’ welfare too, notes Wu.
“China could become a top three market globally for WELL,” Wu says. “The Institute is putting a lot of effort into the China market as it is also one of the fastest growing office markets in the world.”
Benefits outweigh the costs
One question that often pops up in the discussion of WELL is whether adopting it is expensive. While the answer is a yes, the more pertinent question is whether it is worth the extra effort and cost.
And that is a definite yes, for significant reasons.
First, adoption of the standard will result in an improvement in employee health. That alone will cut medical costs, justifying part of the higher costs associated with WELL.
Second, having an office in which people want to work in has a huge intangible effect on a company’s standing. That helps companies gain an edge in an increasingly competitive battle for talent.
Wu points out that employees want to work in companies that care for them on top of decent working hours and a good pay. “An office that promotes healthy lifestyles sends a strong message that you may work hard, but your well-being will be looked after,” he adds.
Third, a well-looked after workforce is a productive one, according to a 2015 survey of US workers by Gallup.
The survey found that employees who report high levels of welfare are 27% more likely to report “excellent” performance in their own job at work. In addition, they are 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months.
In short, paying attention to workers’ health and welfare results in a more engaged workforce and a lower attrition rate.
So, while a healthier office may cost more to design and set up, companies may find that they not only have healthier team members, but, by reducing staff turnover and improving productivity, the effect on the company’s numbers will also be positive.
If you would like to know more about how to restructure your office to enjoy these returns, you can contact our team to learn more. JLL has experts on workplace strategy and sustainability service within the Greater China region, who can help you find out more about how WELL can work for you.