“Wellness is becoming a key component of workplace strategy with corporates increasingly looking to design the best workplaces to enhance employee engagement and productivity, and developers aiming to attract higher calibre tenants and potentially lease more quickly and at higher rates. Having introduced workplace strategy last year as an additional service offering for our clients, we are now bringing wellness to the forefront, giving our clients a more well-rounded strategic service offering,” said Ms. Victoria Gilbert, Wellness Consulting lead, Asia, Colliers International.
In a recent survey by insurer Cigna of countries across the region, 66% of respondents said it was important that their employer had a wellness programme in place, and 59% said such a programme would impact their decision whether to join a new employer. Wellness programmes were even more highly valued by young people, and with millennials projected to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, they are a demographic that should not be ignored.
A Business Priority
In Asia Pacific and globally, the promotion of wellness in the workplace has shifted from a corporate social responsibility consideration to a strategic priority as more companies recognise the role it plays in driving business results. A study by GSK Global Healthcare estimates that pain-related productivity losses cost companies across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines the equivalent of US$44.6 billion in 2016 – or 2.4% of the countries’ combined Gross Domestic Product.
Workplace wellness is a vast field that can span everything from fitness incentive programmes to the base office design, ergonomics, light, air and healthier cafeteria choices. It is also a concept that needs to be embedded in the physical environment, factored into everything from office layout, acoustic planning to ambient lighting levels. While technology has blurred the lines between “work” and “life”, it has also given rise to innovative solutions that can transform wellness, and empower owners and occupiers alike to foster healthier working environments.
The New Workplace Model
The increasing priority placed on wellness has led to the emergence of standards that provide models for owners and occupiers to follow. Among these standards a clear international benchmark has emerged in The WELL Building Standard, launched in 2014 by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). There are 10 concepts outlined in the Well Standard Overview, namely Air, Water, Nourishment, Mind, Light, Sound, Movement, Materials, Community and Thermal Comfort.
Within Asia Pacific, different markets are at various stages of adoption. Australia is a relative forerunner; China is emerging as one of Asia Pacific’s most dynamic WELL building adopters, with the country’s first WELL certified pilot project, the Haworth Kerry Center Organic Showroom, opening in 2016, and Shanghai now boasting the most registered WELL projects of any city worldwide. More developed markets like Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore are continuously expanding their track records of WELL projects. Though Wellness is yet to gain significant ground in emerging markets like Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines, which are still primarily focused on boosting the volume of office infrastructure, this could change quickly.
New Technologies Power Wellness
New technologies play a vital role in fostering wellness in the built environment, whether through control or automation of variables like lighting and temperature, or the monitoring of factors like air quality and energy use. This will ultimately contribute positively to business results by reducing the usage of utilities, as well as health or productivity-related losses. Further, innovative solutions, such as wearables, health apps and online fitness communities, empower employees to stay healthy and take greater responsibility for their own health.
In pursuing wellness and implementing enabling technologies, owners and occupiers will inevitably encounter challenges. While the challenges and solutions may vary from firm to firm, there are some general best practices that companies can adopt: 1) start small and leverage existing resources, 2) demonstrate leadership, 3) think in terms of ROI (return on investment) and VOI (value of investment), 4) engage employees.
Ms. Gilbert added: “The data around employee health and well-being makes it clear that Asia Pacific has some way to go in the pursuit of workplace wellness. But with better buildings coming online, related technologies growing more sophisticated and international standards taking root in developed and emerging markets, I’m positive that Wellness is the way of the future in the workplace.”
To view a copy of the Wellness report, click here