What Makes you Happy?

A New Approach


There are signs that things are changing in response to calls like that from the CIPD. The number of UK organisations with wellbeing strategies has increased by 130 percent since 2016, with over two thirds of employers saying they now have a formal plan in place, according to the Employee Wellbeing Research Report 2019 published by the Employee Rewards and Benefits Association and AXA PPP Healthcare. The report claims that 68.4 percent of employers now have a dedicated wellbeing strategy.

According to the report, in 2018 fewer than half (45 percent) of organisations had implemented a wellbeing plan and in 2016 fewer than a third (30 percent). This means uptake of employee wellbeing strategies over three years has risen significantly – by 130 percent. Of the 47 percent of employers without a strategy in place, 81 percent said they are planning to introduce one either this year or at some point in the next few years.

More than two thirds (67.6 percent) of firms in the private sector now have a dedicated wellbeing strategy, while more than three quarters (77.5 percent) of public sector organisations have a strategy in place.

Governments are also waking up to the benefits of addressing wellbeing as a measure of success rather than just GDP. The New Zealand government has unveiled its plans to release billions of NZ dollars for mental health services and other issues related to quality of life. The

initiative has five priorities for 2019: aiding the transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy, supporting a thriving nation in the digital age, lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities, reducing child poverty, and supporting mental health.

In the UK, noises have also been made in this direction. Earlier in 2019, the Office for National Statistics began publishing bulletins outlining measures of wellbeing. The UK may not have made the issue a cornerstone of economic policy yet, but that may be a matter of time.


The link to corporate social responsibility


One of the most interesting developments in the debate about wellbeing in the last few years has been our enhanced knowledge of the links between the issue and green building design and other forms of corporate social responsibility.

The World Green Building Council has published a report highlighting what it suggests are the tangible economic benefits of green buildings and the improved levels of occupant satisfaction when companies implement new health, wellbeing and productivity features in existing green structures. Doing Right by Planet and People: The Business Case for Health and Wellbeing in Green Building presents case studies of 11 facilities around the globe that have one or more green certifications including LEED, Green Star and BREEAM.

The report evaluates health and wellbeing features that were integrated into the facilities, such as enhanced fresh air ventilation, acoustic privacy, increase of daylight penetration and use of biophilic design elements such as green walls and extensive indoor plants.

After adding health and wellbeing features into green-certified buildings, companies found that employee absenteeism was reduced, operating costs were minimised employees felt more productive and healthier. The UK chapter of the council has also published its own guide on wellbeing and the environment.

It is not alone in pursuing the link. In the UK, BRE offers its own advice and BRE and worked with the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) to show how projects can achieve both a certified BREEAM rating and WELL Certification. The briefing, Assessing Health and Wellbeing in Buildings – Alignment between BREEAM and the WELL Building Standard, was developed as ‘part of a commitment to continuous improvement by IWBI and BRE’ but is perhaps more importantly an indicator of how wellbeing and environmentally friendly building design go hand in hand.

This thinking is now global. The International WELL Building Institute has also signed up to the United Nations Global Compact, a platform for the development, implementation and disclosure of responsible business practices. The UN Global Compact sets out ten principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.

Similarly, the Center for Active Design offers its Fitwel accreditation, which competes with the WELL standard. Fitwel is a building rating system for commercial interiors that provides guidelines on how to design and operate healthier workplaces as well as feeding ideas into the construction of new buildings.

The momentum shows no sign of slacking as the world’s largest workplace analytics firm Leesman, has announced a collaboration with real estate and tech consultancy Delos to measure and assess the impact of real estate and workplace design strategies on wellbeing. The Leesman data is updated in real time so there will be a constant stream of new information about the impact of specific design characteristics.