How can buildings improve our workplace wellness?

Three passionate speakers and a well-versed moderator were lined up for the ULI Summer Drinks at The Collective HQ in Bloomsbury on the evening of 13th July 2017. The discussion centred around workplace wellness, providing an informative and insightful look into the growing importance of well-being across the urban realm. The panel discussion was particularly topical, as work spaces in London are shrinking and becoming increasingly more expensive. Everybody in the room could relate to the topic discussed, and judging by the conversations the followed afterwards, had strong opinions on the matter.

With people spending around 80% of their time inside, it’s no surprise that there is increasing pressure on developers to design buildings that promote the well-being of those who use them. This is of course no easy task, not least because there are any number of factors that can affect the way a person feels, physically and mentally.

A diverse mix of professionals from across the industry were included on the panel. On stage for the evening was Sophy Moffat, Insight Lead on Workplace Wellbeing at Cushman & Wakefield, Neil Pennell, Head of Engineering and Design at Land Securities and Philippa Gill, partner at Verdextra, Well EP and Reset ASP. The session was moderated by Victoria Lockhart, Director at the International WELL Building Institute, member of the ULI UK Sustainability Council and Young Leaders committees.

The discussion started off with Sophy Moffat showcasing highlights from the new Cushman & Wakefield study on the importance of workplace well-being in offices, which was published that morning. Focusing on the relevance of well-being to investors, the study’s findings demonstrated that better workplace well-being leads to increased productivity and turnover for the company. There was some interesting discourse between the panellists and the audience on these findings. Most people nodded in agreement at the importance of workplace wellness, acknowledging that a healthy work space helps workers engage better with the tasks at hand.

An interesting example of this was shown through the presentation delivered by Neil Pennell, who showed his company’s transition into a new office with a completely different design and layout, as part of a large-scale effort to increase workplace well-being. This really helped put in context what designers mean when talking about a ‘healthy building’. What was particularly intriguing about Neil’s presentation was the extent Land Securities went to to achieve the maximum Wellness rating; everything from air quality, temperature and office brightness had to be considered.

By drawing on her experience with helping large corporations to maximise their workforce potential through utilising healthy workplaces, Philippa Gill articulately complemented the work done by Neil’s company. Through discussing continuous monitoring techniques, indoor air quality and optimising operational performance across portfolios, the science behind the workplace well-being techniques became clearer to all of us.

The panel discussion ended after the audience was given the opportunity to pick the brains of the panellists. Afterwards the guests descended on the bar, and over some delicious hors d’oeuvres we all pondered and discussed how we could design, build and inhabit the workplaces of the future. Workplaces that brought the best out of us, fostered creativity, collaboration and meant that, ultimately, Mondays were a little bit easier on all of us.

Words by Thomas Eyre, Blackstock PR

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