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Prioritise Employee Welfare and Reap the Rewards 

by Hayley Saunders

Published: February, 2021

Submission: February, 2021

 



This article forms part of our ‘New How: Perspectives’ report: ‘Can real estate help solve the productivity puzzle?. To access this free report, please click on the download link to the right of this page.


 


If somebody asked me at the start of 2020 whether I could join a meeting by video, my immediate thought would have been: “no, that sounds far too difficult and I don’t think we really have the technology to do that”. If the same person at the time asked me to drive 50 miles to attend a meeting, I would quite happily have jumped in my car and not thought twice about losing two hours of my time.


How times have changed...


The time I have ‘got back’ I have used wisely. Not every day, but most days. I now have the luxury of exercising before or after work (as I don’t have the commute). I also have the luxury of being at home for all the parcels that get delivered as I no longer spend time going to the shops. And more importantly, I get more time to be me. Whether that means a break from work, reading a book or relaxing in the bath. All this time is precious and important for our wellbeing.


Looking after health and safety within the workplace is a legal requirement. It is quite often forgotten but the legislation requires an employer to do all that is reasonably practicable to protect an employee’s health, safety and welfare. And this isn’t just about physical health, it is also about mental health and wellbeing which is, quite often, forgotten.


In 2018, there were 595,000 workers suffering from work related stress, depression and anxiety. In March 2020, the figure was 828,000. An increase of 39% in just two years. Work related stress accounts for 51% of all work-related ill health. 55% of all working days are lost to stress, depression and anxiety. These statistics were issued just before the country went into the first lockdown and therefore the figures are not attributable to the virus itself. However, what the figures do indicate is that employee stress, depression and anxiety is getting worse and is increasing at a significant rate.


2020 has shown us how resilient and flexible to change we must be. The pandemic brought about a lot of stress and anxiety, but what has been refreshing is how workplaces have adapted, albeit through forced change at the start, to recognise that people can work just as well (if not better and more productively) at home than in an office environment. However, if we recognise that home working will endure as a regular feature of our working week, how can employers continue to protect their workforce in the same way when they are unable to physically observe signs of stress in their employees? Quite simply, employers need to adapt to this new way of working and ensure that robust systems are in place to ensure employees do not feel isolated and unmotivated. We all need to think outside the proverbial box and change our way of thinking about how health and safety is impacted where an employee is not in physical sight of the employer. Out of sight should not be out of mind. It is important, now more than ever, that employees’ health and wellbeing is looked after to ensure the workplace (wherever that may be located) is safe.


This change in working patterns and locations will take trust, confidence and, in some cases, a seismic cultural shift, but by empowering employees to have the choice of where they work and by trusting them to do so, employers are allowing them to be the decider of what makes them the most efficient person they can be. This makes them work smarter, if not harder.


According to a recent Gallup-Healthways poll, millennials are 81% less likely to move jobs in the next year if their employer focuses on employee wellbeing. By designing their offices to promote wellness, having a trusting and caring culture and by being open to societal change, businesses can not only attract talent and reduce staff turnover, but they can also boost their productivity as well. Place as much emphasis on welfare as on physical health and safety and the rewards will follow.


 


To read more of our perspectives on whether real estate can help solve the productivity puzzle, download our free report using the link to the right of this page.


 



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