Return on wellness?

In the same way that ‘experience’ is the word du jour in retail circles; the buzzword in office design in recent years has been ‘wellness’. Some businesses have spent significant cash on the pursuit of wellness, on the assumption that it delivers financial benefits in the form of talent attraction and reduced churn. So, it is worth it? Yes. And no… concludes a recent study published by Harvard Business Review. The claim that wellness supports financial targets is made out. However, the study finds that most expenditure is wasted on ‘pointless office perks’, and instead employers need to focus on getting the basics right. I’ve analysed a fair number of these studies over the past couple of years. One wellness factor scores at or near the top of every single one of them – access to natural daylight. In this study it came in P2 behind air quality. A close third and fourth were water quality and temperature. Not a gym or café in sight. Environmental conditions are typically controllable through good M&E. Increasingly, as the study suggests, employees want this to be customisable / personalisable using technology (light, temp) and furniture (sound). However, access to natural daylight is more reliant on selecting the right building in the first place, and hence an area worthy of focus for developers looking to maximise their alignment to occupier need. The advice in the report for estate managers? ‘A good rule of thumb is to never assume that you know what your employees want — but instead, find ways to ask them.’