Finding the Balance Between Cost Efficiency and Workplace Wellbeing

Finding the Balance Between Cost Efficiency and Workplace Wellbeing

As flexible workspace moves into the mainstream and business owners increasingly recognise the benefits of a collaborative, service-led workplace, there has been a noticeable upswing in workspaces focusing on the wellbeing of its users.

Gym memberships, yoga classes, bicycle storage, plantlife - these are all positive elements, but the concept of wellbeing is an integrated approach that’s now firmly topping the agenda of business owners.

At BCA Conference in May 2018 we heard from Alex Gifford of Steelcase, who discussed the design and science of wellbeing in the workplace and why it matters to the modern worker.

“Why is it important? Because we are all declining in wellbeing in the workplace,” he told Conference. “Work is tougher, more stressful, and we’re suffering as a result.” Gifford points out that we can’t do meaningful work or solve problems on autopilot, and we need to be in the best state of mind with all the right support mechanisms in place - and that starts with the workplace.

In the sixth and latest edition of Occupier Edge from Cushman & Wakefield, Despina Katsikakis, Head of Occupier Business Performance, spells out the importance of wellbeing:

“The purpose of an office is to bring together people so that they can work collaboratively towards their organisation’s goals. The quality of the work environment can have a significant impact on employee productivity and innovative thinking - and getting it right is critical... Workplace factors affect workplace productivity and many elements that enable high-performance workplaces are connected to employee health and wellbeing.”

However, she noted that the workplace design process “always struggles to balance two goals in conflict with one another: delivering cost savings (making the most of the space) and generating value (making the most of the people).”

Unfortunately, although there is a clear shift towards operators investing in workspaces designed for enhanced wellbeing - such as The Office Group, amongst others - we are still fighting against the tide.

Case in point, in another excerpt from its Occupier Edge magazine, Cushman & Wakefield’s June 2018 report ‘Disruptive Office Trends In 2018’ claims that workplace density - the number of workers within a given office space - increased at a global level in 2017.

According to the report, the reason for this is that occupiers “want to be as efficient as possible to accommodate rising workplace populations and get the best value from increased occupancy costs.”

Faced with this imbalance, flexible workspace operators have a vital opportunity to demonstrate the suitability of their spaces as a harmonious solution that balances both cost efficiency and enhanced value for clients - and operators are embracing that prospect.

Last week’s eOffice Conference in London took place at Fora Clerkenwell, a six-storey flexible workspace building with its own lounge and roof terrace spanning the entire top floor.

Founder and CEO, Enrico Sanna, describes Fora as a pro-working space and in addition to workspace, members are provided with access to unique services such as a ‘creative thought room’, a reading room, phone booths, a wellness studio, fitness classes, and business events. Secure bike storage and lockers are also provided.

“I see our role as improving the work environments for those of us who don’t work for Google,” Sanna said at the eOffice Conference. During his presentation, he focused on differentiation and how Fora offers a unique experience with a distinct emphasis on wellbeing and design.

“We work on finding ways to encourage people to leave their desks and connect with others. I can’t give you a formula, but we find it’s the little things that make a difference. They’re the things that people remember.”

There is, and will always be, a tussle between cost efficiency, space utilisation and workplace happiness. But there is a clear need and corresponding demand for high quality work environments that improve employee productivity and innovative thinking.

Flexible workspace operators now have an exciting opportunity to proactively deliver the type of environment that plugs directly into employee health and wellbeing, as the benefits, as noted by Katsikakis, are well worth the investment:

“Given that up to 90% of operational expenditure is on employees, even a small improvement in wellness and well-being can have a huge impact on productivity - repaying the incremental occupancy cost many times over.”

Images from top: Steelcase press image; Alex Gifford presenting at BCA Conference 2018; roof terrace and event space at Fora Clerkenwell.

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