By Anders Furze
As competition for skilled talent intensifies, top companies are going the extra mile to create aspirational work environments for their employees. Recent wellness initiatives include everything from nap pods to brain optimisation spas and, in the case of American hedge fund Numerai, cryonic preservation (a recent job listing notes, “Numerai cares about its employees beyond their legal deaths”).
While those perks might be slightly over the top, good companies recognise the value of incorporating wellness into the design of their offices, according to Dr Libby Sander, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Bond Business School.
“In the workplace, people have physical needs and psychological needs, in terms of what’s going to make them perform effectively … Our workplaces are increasingly becoming much more focused on experience design, incorporating factors we know make us happier and healthier as human beings.”
Well-designed work environments “help people think better, be in better moods, [and can] have a huge impact on many different organisational outcomes, from staff mood to productivity and employee engagement.”
She notes you don’t need to be a billion dollar company to promote wellness at work.
“With the democratisation of design, you can go to IKEA and design a really beautiful workplace or home office for really not a lot of money.”
Top companies value good design, says Gavin Phillips, executive director of enterprise strategy and innovation at property services company JLL.
“Space shapes behaviour, and behaviour over time creates culture.”
Phillips says this is just one component of business that can be improved by design, with other aspects including business strategy and management principles also benefiting.
He notes that current trends include “bringing the hotel experience into the workplace” through a hospitality-led design approach.
“You can go into a beautiful looking space, but if it’s cold and inhospitable, it tends to feel a bit awkward.”
Both Phillips and Sander note that the connection with natural materials and plants – referred to as ‘biophilic design’ – also encourage workplace wellness.
Phillips says the presence of plants in the office can result in everything from “lowering stress to improving our cognitive function”.
Sydney tower Grosvenor Place is one premium office building that embeds wellness principles into its offering.
Conveniently located on George Street in The Rocks, the Harry Seidler-designed tower offers commercial tenants a holistic approach to facilities.
“We want to develop a sense of community within Grosvenor Place,” says executive director John Derrick. “Our tenants see the workplace as more than just an office. Where there is increasing competition for skilled talent, they need to be able to ensure that their organisation offers team members these facilities.”
As well as the benefits of large floor plates and floor-to-ceiling windows, which provide generous natural light, the building’s hotel-style end-of-trip facilities support a philosophy of convenience and wellness – with 30 showers, 540 lockers and more than 170 bike racks. Many levels feature exclusive outdoor terraces for meetings (or after-work drinks) in the sun.
“We offer complimentary towel service, GHD hair dryers, luxurious soaps and conditioners, and marble-lined changing rooms.”
The building’s common areas are used by companies for everything from Christmas parties to Mardi Gras functions, and throughout the year the lobby hosts activities from Valentine’s Day promotions to complimentary bike servicing.
“It’s not just for the senior staff members, care is taken to ensure activities and facilities appeal to all team members,” Derrick notes.
Other initiatives at the building include complimentary yoga, pilates and meditation classes, while there are also off-site boot camps.
Classes are designed to minimise the strain on the body and mind the occurs during the office work day.
“All of these things promote wellbeing within our customers’ businesses.”
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