As healthcare cost and absenteeism can negatively impact the bottomline of organisations, many occupiers are increasingly looking to corporate wellness to keep their staff healthy and in turn, more productive.
Wellness strategies can also help companies to entice fresh talent and retain employees. The modern workforce - particularly the millennials - have a greater awareness of how the office environment and the length of time spent at work each day can affect their mental and physical well-being. These individuals seek personalized wellness programmes and may opt to join a competitor if an existing organization falls short on wellness implementation.

From the landlords’ perspective, occupiers’ rising demand for space and buildings that support and enhance the corporate wellness agenda will guide the development of new assets and the refurbishment of existing properties. Having assets that play into the corporate wellness trend will help to attract new tenants whilst driving rental growth.

However, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to wellness strategy. Colliers International wellness consultant and associate director Ms. Victoria Gilbert from the Corporate Solutions team explained what is driving the sector and why it matters.

Q1: Why is Colliers focusing on wellness at the workplace?

Victoria Gilbert:
Colliers is focusing on wellness to support our current suite of services, the way we are seeing the market going is that wellness is becoming a key component of workplace. Last year, we introduced workplace strategy as an additional service offering for our clients, and this seems to be a logical next step, bringing wellness at the forefront and being able to give our clients a well-rounded service offering. Not only are we talking to them about the space, but we are talking about how they make the space work for their people. That’s essentially why we are working with our clients, we are really putting people at the core of real estate. And corporates are looking at how they can design the best workplaces, how they can improve the health and wellness of their occupants so that they encourage employee engagement and productivity. Colliers wants to be able to help them on that journey by providing a full real estate journey that includes wellness.

Q2: Why is there a need for a strategy around wellness in the workplace?

VG:
Traditionally, corporate wellness programmes as they were known previously were often an additional initiative, part of an HR initiative, usually at cost and very few people took up those initiatives. That was because people were either not interested or only people who were already interested took them up, so it became a little bit difficult for them to gain any ground in popularity.

What happens when you take all these and put them in a built environment is that people just have to turn up for work and they are already taking part. So essentially you get a 100% participation rate. Through things like providing top quality air through using HVAC system in air filtration, by making sure that the lighting is correct for the activities that people are going to undertake at work, and that they have the access to a right amount of natural daylight - I think that is very powerful because it is something that people are looking out for, it is something people want, but they don’t necessarily want to do it at a huge amount of effort or cost to be able to implement them.

These initiatives do cost money but actually we are seeing it move from a cost to an investment. And it becomes an investment when people are healthier and therefore more productive, taking fewer sick days and hopefully staying in the company for longer.

Q3. How far do wellness strategies vary across different markets?

VG:
What we are seeing is, in China and India, the air pollution is really driving people’s awareness, and with that awareness then comes demand for landlords, occupiers, employers, schools, you name it, to do something about it. In Australia, the focus is more on nutrition, having healthier options available, having things like end-of-trip facilities in workplaces so that people can run to work, walk, cycle and be actively commuting. So, the drivers are very different.

 Another driver is biophilia, which is human’s innate connection to nature. We were essentially a species that’s designed to be outside, we have decided to put ourselves in: four walls and a roof. That has given us an environment that we are actually not adapted for. So, if we can start to bring elements of nature into the workplace, it starts to lower stress level – if you bring in plants, if you have pictures, if you have a view to the outside world. There are a lot of things that can be done from a design perspective.

Q4. Why should companies and landlords care about putting in place a wellness strategy?

VG: The (wellness) industry as a whole is quite young, so it is taking occupiers and developers alike, a little bit of time to realty understand what it is and where it can really add value.

 For occupiers, we are seeing talent attraction and retention as a key challenge in the region. Companies are starting to look at how they can differentiate themselves through company culture, through the workplace, how they can address the coming of age of millennials. There were studies out that that showed that millennials want something different from their work environment, and one of the things is having an employer that cares, feeling valued - and addressing health and wellness is one of the things that does precisely that.

All that will influence the landlords because as the occupiers see the benefit of wellness, they are going to demand it of the landlords. They want to move into spaces and buildings that are designed to help them with their wellness amenities and potentially being a part of a community that has wellness at its core. So, for landlords, whether they have existing assets or they are creating new assets, having wellness as a core feature that is already embedded, that is already accounted for can actually help to attract new tenants, attract higher calibre tenants and potentially lease quicker and lease at higher rates.