Developers and landlords who invest to create offices that embody the occupier-driven focus on wellbeing will reap their rewards commercially while those that don’t face diminishing returns, according to a new report from Cushman & Wakefield.
The Well Workplace report maps out the major trends, opportunities and challenges of the future facing owners and occupiers of commercial office space due to the growing emphasis on employee health and vitality as part of the work environment.
Equally, for landlords there is commercial advantage and price premium for assets which incorporate wellbeing. A survey from the Urban Land Institute revealed two thirds of built environment professionals agree wellbeing features in a property can directly impact market success and economic value.
Additionally, more than a quarter of landlords believe they can charge a premium rent as a result of wellbeing, according to a study by Dodge Data & Analytics. The same data shows that nearly half of respondents said spaces leased more quickly.
Report author Sophy Moffat, from Cushman & Wakefield’s EMEA Research & Insight team, said: “The rise of wellbeing in the commercial real estate industry is not a fad but a long-overdue acceptance that people are the largest cost and biggest contributor to the success of companies. The call to action for the real estate industry, and broader built environment, is loud and clear: the design and building of workplaces must change to meet a flexible future.”
James Young, Cushman & Wakefield’s Chair of EMEA Offices, said: “The competition to hire and retain the best people – with companies across all sectors often chasing the same talent – and the known benefits from increased workforce productivity, has seen large tech companies at the forefront of workplace developments.
“We believe the trickle-down effect across the wider industry will become a flood due to a number of factors, chief among them the benefits for the bottom line.”
Dominika Kowalska, Senior Consultant, Workplace Strategy, Global Occupier Services, Cushman & Wakefield, said: “The influence of employee wellbeing at work has attracted increasing interest in office design. Wellbeing programs have been proven to boost productivity and the bottom line. According to the “Well Workplace” report, WELL offices help attract new talent and strengthen the company’s market position. So they are an essential element of employer branding strategies. It’s worth using it.”
The report makes three key predictions for how Wellbeing will impact the property industry in the future:
First, Wellness officers will proliferate. Human resource and facilities management roles, often operating in corporately-imposed silos, will be superseded by community managers using analytical tools, smart technologies and business metrics to customise the physical environment to its inhabitants.
The office as ‘one-space-for-one-organisation’ will be replaced by permeable workplaces with multiple, overlapping communities and a shared level of trust. These workplaces will command a price premium for their functionality and contribution to both occupant wellbeing, as well as business performance.
Second, wellbeing will be critical to attract the highest-quality tenants. Wellbeing will play a key role in leasing decisions, especially for businesses in the knowledge sector. As technology advances, the essentially human parts of work will become more important and gig employees, or swarms, will replace full time employees as the main source of talent. Well, smart offices will therefore become a top priority for top talent.
Third, wellbeing metrics will be transformed by technology. Office developers will need to know their consumers better than ever before and space will be developed through early and deep collaboration with occupants. Over the next decade, expect to see workplace wellness programmes predicting sick leave to manage gaps in resourcing, as well as future employee healthcare costs.
Of course, while having individual health data in real time is empowering it also sparks concerns about privacy. If companies have technology to monitor employees’ biometric data and personal health information there are serious, mounting data breaches. In the end, it will be about value exchange – how much will employees be willing to give up to work in better places.