The Relationship Between Healthy Employees and a Healthy Bottom Line

Ilustration by Daniel Morgenstern

Our current wellness paradigm is stuck measuring the cost of various degrees of illness rather than calculating the value of wellness and proactively enabling us to reach optimum wellness. Healthy employees are a significant factor to a healthy bottom line and the workplace has a key role to play, but our entire approach requires transformation. It is not a simple solution; a gym, or a standing desk, but it is an ongoing process that requires an integrated approach of leadership, space, technology and policies to deliver change.

With longer working hours in an increasingly ‘always on’ world, businesses need to be more focused than ever on creating places in which people want to spend their working days and feel healthy and happy. A company culture that engenders trust and does not expect employees to be wired and responsive 24/7 needs to become the norm to make our workplaces truly sustainable.

What if :

  • we could leave work feeling healthier and more inspired than when we arrived?
  • our workplace actively supported our life at work?
  • we had a say in the way we work and could make a difference?
  • we felt genuine connection to our community of colleagues?

The working environment can either stimulate and sustain people’s engagement and energy or dampen and drain it. For it to be a positive experience that adds value, it must meet a series of basic human needs:

  • to renew our physical energy
  • to feel valued
  • to focus and be creative
  • to connect with others in a range of ways

We perform at our best when we move, spend time outside getting daylight and alternate between different physical, emotional, mental and spiritual states.

The combination of open plan office design and email has shattered people’s capacity to focus with constant interruption, distraction and lack of freedom and choice. We’ve come to see multitasking as an essential skill when in fact it destroys our productivity. The lack of places to work without interruption means that we further reinforce a culture of intermittent thinking and stress. To cope with the intensity of work today we need more access to quiet spaces to concentrate, think and recharge as well as access to flexible spaces for meeting, collaborating and socializing. We should change position and stand up more often and ask ourselves if it’s really necessary to do all of our tasks sitting on a chair.

The World Green Building Council reports overwhelming evidence that a range of office design factors — from air quality and lighting, to views of nature and interior layout — can significantly impact the well-being and productivity of staff.

The workplace can affect the physiological and psychological performance of people, so it is necessary to work with end users to co-design places that energize, encourage social interaction and collaboration, enhance personal control and provide services and events to manage the blurring of working and living to improve quality of life.

People report greater satisfaction and productivity when they are in a flexible work space that they can change to meet their work needs, mood, or inspiration at the moment. We can safely say that the office environment will no longer be made up of rows of desks but of a rich variety of settings and curated events which will blur the boundary between personal and shared spaces to support organizational innovation.

When space is designed with people and purpose in mind, it can make our life at work more meaningful. It can help make us more aware of what we are doing and who we are ‘being’ at work; to more meaningfully connect with others, to share knowledge and ideas, to concentrate and focus, to activate our mind and body, to connect with nature, to recharge our energy, to delight and inspire us to thrive.