Bringing wellbeing to work.

Imagine if, at the end of the work day, you feel calm and on top of things, mentally clear and ready for everything you do after work. Physically you feel energised, relaxed, and healthy. And imagine if that is thanks not only to your personal effort (kudos to you if it is, though!), but due to fact that your physical work environment, and the culture you work in, actively supports your health and wellbeing.

Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who already (or soon will) work in such a place. A growing number of businesses are making the health and wellbeing of their staff a priority, as we see by the number of workplace design briefs across our desks now specifying this. Healthy workplaces are not being pursued just because it’s a good perk, rather because improved staff health and wellbeing impact the bottom line. Towers Watson’s research finds that ‘employers with highly effective programmes that contribute to improved work force health report 34% higher revenue per employee’.  

Wellbeing in the workplace is a growing trend globally, evidenced by the development of the Well Institute’s Well Building Standard TM – a performance-based system of measurement, certification and monitoring of features of the built environment that impact health and wellbeing.  I was lucky enough to visit Lendlease’s new HQ at Barangaroo, hailed as Sydney’s ‘most sustainable office’, to see for myself what a space that officially prioritises the wellbeing of its people, looks and feels like.

The sense of space and natural light were the first things that struck me. Lendlease have adopted Activity Based Working as their organising principle but retained a high ratio of around 10 desks for 11 people, and a space allowance of around 15m2 per person. Plenty of alternative workpoints in library areas, focus lounges, and social hubs ensure that everyone can always find the right type of workspace for their needs.

Lines of sight to the outside are retained throughout the floorplate, so no matter where you choose to sit, you can look up and see the outside world. Natural timber and plenty of plants, including a 7-metre high living green wall, also feature throughout the design. Although I have come across many clients reluctant to take on the care and expense of live plants, there is clear evidence of their efficacy at improving office air quality, removing pollutants such as CO2 and Volatile Organic Compounds (emitted by carpets, paint, furnishings), and helping staff to feel better in their workspace.