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Designing for health and wellbeing

WELL By Simon Wyatt, Partner, Sustainability – 08 May 2017

Interior shot of Cundall London office focusing on the reception at which one person is working and another is standing, as a third person walks in front, blurred


Simon Wyatt in front of office facade in a dark suit and blue shirt

Simon Wyatt

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We often talk about wellbeing, health and happiness, in relation to our personal lives. However, there has been a growing awareness and interest in the importance of providing healthy and productive environments for building occupants. This can easily be seen by the increase in use of the lifestyle/ fitness watches. More people than ever are cycling to work with the demand for cycling facilities far outstripping the allowances in most modern offices. Employers are offering gym memberships as part of their benefit packages and are also thinking about how they can provide better work spaces for their staff.

However, in 2014–2015 over 23 million days were lost due to work-related ill health (Labour Force Survey). Presenteeism, turning up for work when unwell, is common, and the costs are at least twice as much as those for absenteeism. Surveys suggest that up to 70% of the workforce do not feel engaged and hence are working at reduced performance. As we spend up to 90% of our time in buildings, the environments we create have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing. This has an enormous economic impact on organisational effectiveness, productivity and competitiveness.

There are increasing demands for buildings to achieve robust standards to support the health and wellbeing of occupiers, one example being the growing interest of the WELL Building Standard™. This standard is the world’s first performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing. The concepts addressed are air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Some businesses are reviewing the WELL Building Standard™ as a means of demonstrating the quality of their space which potentially, may attract and retain staff. This will have implications for the attractiveness, and consequently the investment value, of office buildings in the future.

Cundall are well on their way to becoming the UK authority on health and wellbeing in the built environment after delivering Europe’s first WELL certified project. They are using their experience to help guide clients through the process, one of which is on track to achieve the world’s first WELL Platinum certified office. This process is helping to establish the business case for health and wellbeing, enabling them to measure how the individual design features affect absenteeism, presenteeism, productivity, staff retention and attraction, income retention and reduced voids versus increased cost.

Cundall has already started to measure some of these metrics in their WELL certified office in London. The early findings from their post occupancy elevations show significant improvements in staff engagement, enjoyment in the environment as well as increases in perceived wellbeing and productivity. In HR terms, absenteeism rates have reduced significantly; they are 20% lower than those of a typical new office development. Staff turnover is also down by more than 25% in the year. This has resulted in a payback period for implementing wellbeing measures of months rather than years, with on-going savings potentially in the millions for the life of the lease.

This was published in Scandinavian Business Seating as part of Clerkenwell Design Week.