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Wellness and Workplace Experience

The modern workplace is experiencing an almost unprecedented amount of change. The economy is advancing toward a wellness experience.

Workplace Wellness is Tied to Infrastructure

The modern workplace is experiencing an unprecedented amount of change. As power shifts from employers to employees, workers are increasingly demanding an emphasis on their daily work experience and wellness. Companies that offer a more holistic working environment are retaining workers and benefiting from their skills and talent.

In this environment, organizations in almost all industries face a simple choice: prioritize workplace wellness, or possibly face what some economists have termed the “Great Resignation.” Employers who can create an all-encompassing experience designed to attract and retain their talent are building a crucial competitive advantage in the talent market as we speak.

Just how they get there, of course, is complex. We know that a few factors are especially relevant for workers across industries: 

  • The ability to work within a more diverse team, measured in both backgrounds and skill sets. 
  • More flexible work options, including the ability to work remotely or adjust hours.
  • Employers who truly care about them and are able to support personal needs, from childcare to physical health.
  • Initiatives designed to support workers’ well-being in a holistic sense.

How organizations position themselves to these evolving needs, especially related to workplace wellness, will be crucial to becoming an employer of choice, continuing to attract and retain the best and most motivated employees. While building infrastructure is certainly not the only variable in that strategic equation, it can play a vital role in building people-first initiatives for physical spaces.

4 Elements that Put People First

Digging further into the four elements required and embraced by workers today unveils just how comprehensive a modern workplace strategy has to be. Diversity, flexibility, health, and well-being all have multiple dimensions attached that are worth keeping in mind for organizations building that strategy.

1. The Nuances of Modern Workforce Diversity

Creating a more diverse workforce has long been a recommendation from HR and workplace experts. It has become an urgent need in the modern environment, leading to more innovation, happier employees, and higher productivity rates. In, Salvador Ordorica suggests a few important steps to get workplace diversity right:

  • Expand the definition of diversity. In addition to race and gender, more subtle elements like background and social class are important components of the overall equation.
  • Take the time to get it right. Rather than trying to change everything at once, understanding the current environment and shortcomings in this area is as vital as gaining long-term leadership and cultural buy-in to a shift towards greater diversity.
  • Strengthen team relationships. Through activities like team-building exercises, workshops, training, and other initiatives, diverse members of organizations can find, celebrate, and leverage their commonalities without losing their valuable differences. 

Getting to that point requires organizational leadership unified to achieve the same goals. It also requires both physical and technological support behind the strategy.

2. The Multiple Dimensions of Workplace Flexibility

Flexibility is an often used term when describing workforce needs. Exactly what flexibility means deserves further discussion.

Above all, workplace flexibility exists at both ends of the equation for both organizations and the talent they employ. Each may have very different needs:

  • Employees should have the resources to be flexible enough for quick changes and adjustments to their workplace schedule, working remotely vs. working in the office, and more. Above all, workers at all levels now seek the ability to adjust their working conditions more autonomously without sacrificing their productivity.
  • Organizations need to be flexible enough to account for unexpected changes, including anything from a higher percentage of the workforce going remote to changing tenants in shared-space office buildings. Rigid organizational structures, physical or strategic, cannot account for the rapid changes and adjustments we’re already seeing today and will continue to see in the next decade.

Accounting for this multi-dimensional flexibility is absolutely crucial for long-term success. Organizations who understand the nuances involved with both offering and embracing flexibility have the chance to set themselves apart from other employers while at the same time preparing successfully for an uncertain future.

3. Physical Health as a Continued Wellness Driver

While workplace wellness extends far beyond physical health, it still remains an important part of the overall concept. Workers who feel that their employers support their health needs tend to be happier, more productive, and more likely to stay with the organization long-term. 

That process includes a few important variables:

  • Mental health support, which has rapidly risen in importance over the last two years
  • Telehealth opportunities, both in terms of the providers offered through company benefits package and other opportunities to get virtual and remote health support
  • Adapted workplace design that makes employees feel safe when going to work, an increasing concern across industries and economies
  • Increased support and availability of flu shots and other vaccinations at the work site

Even as the definition of wellness continues to expand, don’t underestimate the importance of these most basic physical health needs. Any strategy focused on workplace wellness has to include it as a core consideration.

4. A More Comprehensive View of Employee Well-Being 

The final component of strategic wellness extends well-being to holistically support employees with their physical and emotional needs. This is where concepts like health and nutrition coaching, an on-site fitness center, and other nuances evolve. It’s also where the physical space, with considerations like personal space, break rooms, and plenty of natural light begin to emerge.

A holistic view of employee well-being is the most intangible of the four variables discussed here. It can encompass almost everything that plays a role towards putting people first, which changes from industry to industry and organization to organization. Therefore, it has to start with a good understanding of what exactly employees are looking for and how to accommodate them.

3 Examples of Organizations Prioritizing Employee Wellness

It’s time to get specific. In its InSite newsletter, CoreNet Global specifically highlighted three examples in which organizations have used their physical environment to promote and optimize their operations for employee wellness. These examples are:

  • Verizon Hospitality
  • Commercial Real Estate: Pfizer and The Durst Organization
  • WELL Certification

Verizon Embraces Hospitality as an Office Planning Concept 

In planning its office spaces for 2021, Verizon expanded its definition of employee wellness. Rather than focusing on disconnected or isolated tactics like fitness centers or a nutrition program, it began viewing wellness as a core principle in which employees feel “valued as individuals.” The way to get there: embracing concepts typically reserved for the hospitality industry.

As the newsletter highlights, this follows a belief that “the office is no longer a place people must go, but it is a place people choose to visit because they feel good when they are present and interacting within the space.” Drawing inspiration from vacation resorts, Verizon began to focus on human-centric, high-touch environments to recreate that feel-good vacation environment for all its employees.

Getting there is complex. Verizon brought in a hospitality team to merge with its existing facilities team, introducing a unique perspective and expertise in its office spaces. The goal is to treat every employee working in the office as a guest rather than a resource, treat them as individuals with unique needs, and visibly value their contributions.

That, in turn, requires a cultural and strategic shift in addition to a physical one. Creating that sense of welcome and appreciation for employees, though, has the potential to pay off significantly both in the short-term as people return to work and long-term when attracting high-quality talent.

Prioritizing the Needs of Tenants in Commercial Real Estate

In its Wellness at Work case study, InSite examines two situations that showcase the evolving needs within commercial real estate from two angles: Pfizer, a tenant moving into a new headquarter campus in 2022, and The Durst Organization, a developer, builder, owner, and manager of office and residential buildings.

The takeaway is simple: companies are beginning to demand that the developers from which they rent or lease space contribute to both their present and future goals and needs. Developers who can predict and meet these demands can set themselves apart in attracting key accounts and long-term partnerships. 

Some of these needs include:

  • Ad-hoc meeting areas that allow for a more dynamic, flexible working environment
  • Hot desking layouts and capabilities, designed to be flexible enough for the new unpredictability of hybrid work environments
  • Indoor and outdoor spaces that are designed for productivity and comfort, like floor-to-ceiling windows in Pfizer’s new headquarters that both beautify the space and save potential lighting costs
  • More personalized technology solutions for each tenant, accounting for unique and changing needs based on floor, lease renewals, and other variables
  • Preparation for increasing digitization, including IoT-connected office spaces that dynamically adjust temperature, control access, and more
  • Dynamic design elements that can quickly adjust depending on continually changing tenant needs

The Rising Trend of the WELL Certification

In light of all of these trends, organizations are increasingly turning to outside sources to verify that their physical spaces meet and exceed employee needs and expectations. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the WELL Certification. 

A new global standard, WELL (organized by the International WELL Building Institute) focuses on 10 principles to certify organizations that prioritize workplace wellness:

  1. Air quality, ventilation, and filtration
  2. Water quality, hygiene, and safe reuse
  3. Nourishment and nutrition
  4. Light exposure, design, and quality
  5. Movement, both during work and break times
  6. Thermal Comfort
  7. Sound impact, noise, and barriers
  8. Material restrictions, management, transparency, and waste
  9. Mind management, from mental health to stress management
  10. Community and personal well-being

Innovation as a source of personal well-being, and WELL is providing a roadmap for organizations to promote and improve workplace well-being on a holistic level. The certification, in turn, allows employers to advertise themselves as such to current and prospective employees.

Preparing for the Road Ahead – Workplace Wellness Infrastructure

Change has always been a constant in human resources, but has been accelerating more rapidly than ever over the past two years. If the last few months are any indication, that pace is not about to slow down considerably anytime soon. Putting the right adaptive systems and technologies in place now, can significantly ease the transition period for business and commercial property owners.

As many experts have highlighted, most of today’s commercial building stock is well over 20 years old. That, in turn, may lead to flexibility challenges, making it difficult to account for all the changes mentioned above. 

The key, then, becomes investing in capabilities that can turn older buildings into flexible, employee-focused workspaces. Architecturally, that means creating more open spaces, along with more ad-hoc spaces that can quickly transform to be used for multiple purposes and industries. Technologically, it becomes more complex. 

Investing in the future means creating a technology infrastructure designed for the future. That infrastructure needs to be flexible enough to change at a moment’s notice, including the ability to change or adjust tenant spaces, account for more unpredictable office occupancy, and embrace IoT possibilities. This type of infrastructure can go a long way to make buildings more easily adaptable to the demands of both markets and workforces.

Getting to that point takes time, but that time is well worth the investment. Done right, buildings designed for flexibility attract better tenants, which in turn can attract better employees. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved, accomplished through a more strategic approach to people-first infrastructure.

How Gridd® Enters the Building Infrastructure Conversation

Businesses may know Gridd®, the cable management solution of FreeAxez, as a “raised flooring” solution for commercial buildings. In reality, it is that, but also much more. 

Gridd® is an Adaptive Cabling Distribution® system designed specifically for cable management that embraces the flexibility and infrastructure needs. Its ease of installation, configuration (and reconfiguration), and expansion allows businesses to integrate evolving workplace technologies. 

As the office wellness experience continues to change and becomes an increasing priority, commercial properties have to be adjusted to be competitive for tenants and developers alike. Gridd® is here to help make that transition. Learn more about the Gridd® raised flooring system,  and speak with an advisor today.

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