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FM Clinic: Improving wellbeing in the workplace

Alongside the design and layout of a workplace, the way it is run can have a profound effect on the wellbeing of occupants, including encouraging breaks, improving ergonomics and ensuring access to healthy food and exercise. In what ways can FMs meet growing expectations to improve wellbeing in the workplace?

THE FM’S VIEW

IAN WADE,
HEAD OF UK ESTATES, BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION

The modern workplace is increasingly becoming key for employee wellbeing and engagement. FMs are now better positioned than ever to make a profound and lasting effect in creating a workspace that encourages a wellbeing ethos that makes productivity and success more likely.

The concept of considering employees wellbeing when designing a workspace is still a relatively new one, but it’s not just about getting the workplace right. This is just ‘one column’ of many, if workplace wellbeing is to be championed and enjoyed by all inclusively.

Healthy eating is well established and much publicised already, this should now be a constant with whatever offer you are able to provide in the workplace.

Flexible working practices represent a growing trend and taps into the need for a better work-life balance. However, ‘Working Smarter’ trumps just ‘working flexibly’ in my opinion. The ‘Agile Office’ principle itself pays homage to wellbeing. Reducing and centralising recycling receptacles and printers for example break the sedentary culture.

FMs are well placed to implement simple and relatively low-cost innovations that will encourage occupants to improve on their wellbeing. Policies can be a great enabler, if adopted wisely. For example, no eating ‘El Desko’ (at workstations) will force people out of chairs, ‘Use the Stairs’ campaigns – displaying the health benefit of stairs vs lift on each flight of stairs and landings, and the tried & tested walking meetings.

We regularly host various mindfulness events from Meditation and Yoga to Spoon Carving. These really do seem to stir and engage colleagues across the board. I recently had a HR Manager spend many a lunch hour donning her overalls to restore an antique bench salvaged from our old council chamber – all in the name of wellbeing! I’d say to FMs ‘land-grab’ any spare space you can for this use, even on temporary basis (possession is 4/5ths etc. etc.) and work collaboratively with colleagues to champion such activities. If you are fortunate enough to have outdoor space at your disposal then the opportunities are endless, if properly risk assessed of course – we are FMs after all!

FMs do not need a business case to promote Wellbeing – the engagement is out there already. 

THE WORKPLACE SOLUTIONS SUPPLIER’S VIEW
SAM RYLANDS,
MARKETING MANAGER, DURABLE UK

We spend a large portion of our time in our offices, so it makes complete sense that the buildings we work in have a profound impact on our wellbeing. Most organisations are more aware than ever about the importance of the design of their workspace, but many still need to think beyond that initial design step. Healthy buildings such as those that meet the International WELL Building Institute standard are designed to be healthy throughout their lifetime, not just on the day they are opened.

WELL buildings take into account seven different elements of the workplace which are all equally important, but many are often overlooked by FM teams on an ongoing basis. Combined, the seven factors of Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind combat many chronic diseases, reduce mental health issues and improve productivity. Cundall reported that their WELL certified building notably reduced sick leave and attrition within just three months.

FM’s can also improve the wellbeing of staff in the workplace by providing employees with the ability to personalise their working area using ergonomic furniture. Most employees have access to an adjustable chair and many now enjoy sit-stand desks to encourage movement and avoid sedentary working which is known to cause a plethora of health problems including back issues, poor blood flow and swollen joints. But FM’s also need to consider other solutions to complement this equipment.

A study by Raconteur found that only 57 per cent of workers are satisfied with the light levels in their workplace. This isn’t surprising when someone in their mid-fifties requires twice as much light to see to the same level as someone in their mid-twenties. Flexible lighting solutions from organisations such as LUCTRA enable workers to adjust the light levels over their own desk space to their personal preferences. Recent technological advancements also makes it possible for lighting manufacturers to mimic the natural changes in sunlight throughout the day which supports our body’s natural circadian rhythm and reduces the effect of sallow skin from sitting under the same light all day every day.

There are also super-flexible desktop solutions available which FMs should consider to improve employee satisfaction. Lightweight desktop draw sets are set to replace the need for big, clunky metal draws and as they can be moved easily, they are more ergonomic in design and function. Many staff members crane over tablet computers in meetings, but there are tablet stands available which can be flexibly adjusted to each user.

FM’s are legally obliged to protect workers from the health risks of their working environment, but they are also in a position to ensure the equipment workers use is right for their needs, actively promotes ergonomic wellbeing and increases the comfort and efficiency of employees in the workplace. 

About Sarah OBeirne

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