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It’s time for facilities teams to drive employee wellbeing

Julia-EdmondsWith employee absence costing the UK industry £31.1 billion in 2013, which is the equivalent to just under eight per cent of the UK GDP for the same year, it should come as no surprise that organisations are trying to find ways of tackling this issue. But are facilities teams doing enough to support their employees? Julia Edmonds, managing director, at Lexington investigates

Work in the UK is now a 24 hour, 7 day week operation, people are spending more time in work than at home. As a result the pressure is now on for organisations to take stock of their employee health and wellbeing.

Whilst it often falls to HR teams to manage this, facilities teams have a huge role to play in supporting them and leading in some areas – we need to innovate, support and help lead the way when it comes to employee wellbeing.

There is a huge opportunity for us to utilise our knowledge and expertise to help our HR teams propel the businesses forward, and implement a health and wellbeing strategy that sits well within their culture and has a positive impact on the business.

HOW DO WE DO IT?
Mention health and wellbeing and people often think diet or exercise. Most of us understand the link between a balanced diet and good health, the intake of our beloved five-a-day and making sure we drink enough water. Then there’s the link between our intake of minerals, metals and salts with our energy levels and mental health. So it will come as no surprise that food has become a focus for many organisations when it comes to tackling this subject.

There is now a much bigger demand for fresh produce, higher standards of culinary expertise and sophistication, as well as the requirement for something new and interesting are on the menu.

Lexington Catering led the way with its award winning “Let’s Energise” range. They worked with the leading nutritionist, Liz Tucker, to create the offering which balances healthy fats, proteins and slow releasing carbs all wrapped in appetising food options to help maintain energy levels throughout the working day. Food options in the workplace continue to evolve as more people want to know what they are eating, where their food comes from and how it is produced.

More and more people are also turning to technology as part of their drive for good health and wellbeing. There is a wealth of information available online and Apps are being launched almost weekly to monitor nutrition and calorie intake so it’s really important that people working in the food industry know what they are serving and understand where the food comes from so that they can help educate those they sell it to.

Whilst it may not necessarily be seen as the responsibility of FM teams to educate their people about what they eat and drink it makes sense for us to support HR and provide employees with the right information – after all, we are the experts.

But health and wellbeing at work does not just involve food and drink – there is also the physical environment to consider. The challenge is that when talking about wellbeing in the workplace, people rarely think about the physical environment as one of the factors that can make a big difference to an individual’s sense of wellbeing and job satisfaction. But this can have a huge impact on the productivity of the workforce.

Creating a pleasant workplace environment will positively impact not only the quality of people’s interactions with each other but also their level of happiness at work. Colour schemes, lighting and office furniture that is clean and in good condition are all subconscious factors in this arena.

Take a look at innovative organisations, like Google. They’ve spent a considerable amount of time and money making sure their workplace brings out the best in their people. By entwining innovative concepts across their working environment with their culture they’ve taken it to a new level, with fabulous creative workspaces.

Google recognise that people work differently throughout the day. So to help with this they have provided sleeping pods around their offices to give their people a chance to recharge, rest and relax and to take a break from the pressures and strains of the job. By taking time out when they feel tired they will come back to the task in hand refreshed and revitalised, as a result they will be much more productive and enjoy their working day.

Providing a sleeping pod won’t be right for every organisation and the physical workspace will of course vary according to their individual culture – this is where we, as facilities professionals, can work with HR teams to advise on what’s most suitable for our organisations and our people.

But materials alone aren’t enough, it’s about interaction too. When our customers walk through the door we go out of our way to make sure they are greeted by a welcoming face and inviting environment. This approach should be applied to our people too. It’s up to facilities teams to ensure there is the right support in place so that employees can get on with their day job, and if they need support that there is a friendly person to provide this.

CAN WE BE DOING MORE?
Yes. Research shows one of the biggest problems impacting on employee wellbeing is pressure, as we spend more time at work and less time at home.
Facilities teams can play a huge role in helping individuals achieve good health and reduce pressure, from making sure there are healthy options available in meetings and the staff restaurant to helping employees with day-to-day stresses. It’s this that will enable people to get on with their day job and it is this that will increase productivity.

It is fair to say not every organisation will be able to offer additional facilities, like on-site crèches, doctors, dry cleaning collection and cash points, to support staff but we can do more to relieve some of the stress factors that we all experience.

Facilities teams need to liaise with HR Departments and work them to create the perfect work environment which supports the organisation’s culture and objectives. It’s this that will improve people’s morale, health and wellbeing and as a result, their satisfaction and productivity.

It’s up to us, as facilities professionals, to support our organisations in creating the perfect working environment, where their people feel supported and are able to achieve good health and wellbeing. It’s this that will ensure employee satisfaction and productivity remains high, which will lead to business success.

About Sarah OBeirne

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