How Workplace Wellness is Changing in a Post-Covid World


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Contents
Introduction      
1. Workplace wellness and safety first
2. Towards a WELL world
3. Mental health moves prime time 
 

Introduction

Covid-19 has changed the way we think about health and safety and the role buildings play in supporting our workplace wellbeing. How is Investa’s team elevating wellbeing to create thriving places for people?
 
It is no secret that buildings influence our health and wellbeing. Research has drawn a clear link between the quality of our indoor environments and human health for several decades. The World Health Organization used the phrase “sick building syndrome” as far back as 1983 to describe a host of illnesses caused by poor indoor environment quality. These range from mild but unpleasant symptoms like headaches, fatigue, sore throats, dry eyes and running noses to more serious illnesses like Legionnaires’ disease.

On the flipside, researchers have found the quality of a building has a clear influence on productivity and performance. One of the best studies, undertaken by Harvard University in 2016, found office environments with the highest air quality elevated cognitive function by as much as 101%. Other research confirms that environments that replicate or respond to the natural world enhance human health, lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, boost concentration and strengthen the immune system. But now, as Covid-19 changes the way we live and work, the healthy buildings movement is going mainstream. People are looking at their buildings through a different lens and asking: Are these spaces safe? Are they healthy? And what can we do to make them better?
 


1. Workplace wellness and safety first

The idea of workplace wellness in buildings is not new to Investa, says Megan Francis, Investa’s Business Project Manager. A healthy building combines good design, active management and engaged tenants. Many of the design and operational elements of a healthy building may appear invisible to the average building occupant. But whether it is monitoring air quality or maintaining the highest standards of cleaning “there are many things Investa’s teams do behind the scenes to ensure people stay safe and well,” Francis explains.

Investa’s Barrack Place in Sydney’s CBD was the first development in Australia to achieve Platinum-level precertification under the WELL Building Standard’s WELL Core & Shell rating, for example. The WELL Building Standard, administered by the International WELL Building Institute, is the leading global tool to measure the impact of buildings on human health and wellness. WELL applies the science of wellness to the fabric of the building across categories including air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

Nearly 20,000 buildings around the world have achieved WELL ratings as companies begin to understand that healthy spaces support happier, healthier employees – and that means lower absentee rates and higher productivity.

But since the Covid-19 pandemic crashed on our shores Investa has accelerated its efforts to make its buildings safe and healthy. 

“We began working on our ‘return to work’ plan during the first lockdown period, which looked at every angle from traffic management to social distancing in lifts. We started planning very early so when our customers wanted to return to their offices, we were ready to go,” Francis explains.

Investa has developed comprehensive ‘return to work’ guides, signage to support social distancing and upskilling of staff. Videos walk occupants through their building so they can plan their travel, move around the building with ease and understand how to use the end-of-trip facilities while maintaining social distancing.
“We’ve found that ongoing conversations with our building occupants have put people’s minds at ease and encouraged them to return to their office.”

Investa has also achieved a WELL Health-Safety rating for its portfolio of assets owned by Investa Commercial Property Fund (ICPF) and Oxford Investa Property Partnership (OIPP). This international ‘seal of approval’ confirms that Investa’s buildings put the health and safety of people first.

Focused on operational policies, maintenance protocols and emergency plans, the WELL Health-Safety Rating includes 22 strategies to maintain cleanliness and sanitation, assess air and water quality, prepare for emergencies, provide essential health benefits and services and communicate with customers.

“We didn’t need to tweak anything to achieve a WELL Health-Safety rating. Our strong foundation was a testament to the work we have undertaken over many years to make our buildings safe and healthy,” Francis explains.
 

“We’ve found that ongoing conversations with our building occupants have put people’s minds at ease and encouraged them to return to their office.”

Megan Francis, Investa's Business Project Manager


2. Towards a Well World

Covid-19 has sparked new conversations about the health of buildings, but it has also encouraged people to reprioritise their own wellness, says Investa’s Head of Occupant Experience, Melanie Hopgood-Bould.

“People now expect that their employer will offer yoga classes, subsidised gym memberships and the premium end-of-trip facilities. As tenants make decisions about their next office, they will be on the hunt for health and wellbeing facilities.”

The best wellness offerings combine bricks-and-mortar facilities – like five-star hotel end-of-trip facilities and ample space to store bikes – with regular events and activities to keep people engaged.

The health and wellness facilities at 420 George Street in Sydney are just one impressive example. The Sanctuary offers rich timber and marble-clad facilities expected in luxury day spas rather than office end-of-trip facilities. A Virgin Active gym and a host of digital online classes and workshops are also available for Investa occupants.

Hopgood-Bould points to Investa’s occupant experience app, Insite, which launched just before Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020. “This app seamlessly integrates building services, operations and amenities, whether that’s booking meeting rooms or picking up dry cleaning.”

Investa has established a partnership with Lifestyle Lab to turn buildings into health and wellbeing destinations. In-person classes, established well before Covid, have since pivoted to include both physical and digital offerings that allow building occupants to tap into some of the nation’s best training programs from anywhere, anytime.

“We’ve hosted a really popular series of free digital workshops covering everything from nutrition and food waste to mental health and sleep, so people can stay motivated and maintain their connections wherever they are working,” Hopgood-Bould explains.

Meanwhile, the #MoveItMarch health and wellbeing campaign featured lunchtime classes with RunFit, WalkFit, BoxFit, yoga and more. Customers were encouraged to share their stories of how they were staying active with a gym membership up for grabs in each building.

“We’ve also been really involved with National Ride to Work Day to help people consider another form of transport. We offered free bike tune-ups and giveaways and have seen a big uptick in people riding to work since,” Hopgood-Bould adds.

Many of these wellness initiatives align with Investa’s sustainability agenda. “Riding to work, for example, reduces carbon emissions. People are definitely starting to see how healthy choices fits into the bigger picture of a healthy planet,” Francis explains.
 



 

 


3. Mental Health Moves Prime Time

One in five Australians took time off work because they felt stressed before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Beyond Blue. Companies are now counting the cost after remote working takes its toll on people’s mental health.

Over the last few months, conversations about social distancing and hand sanitising have made way for deeper discussions about mental health, says Hopgood-Bould. Remote workers are increasingly frustrated as the boundaries between work and home life blur – and it’s no surprise that people are feeling burnt out.

Investa has rolled out a raft of programs in response. Uprise Upskill personal trainer program, for example, gives participants the skills they need to boost their mood, resilience and emotional intelligence. The Move your Mind podcast series with Nick Bracks unpacks the mindsets of people who have excelled in careers across a range of industries.

Simple strategies can be conversation starters to show customers that they are part of a building community that cares, says Hopgood-Bould. On RUOK Day, Investa’s team handed out conversation cards and chocolate bars. “We have really ramped up our in-building activations to help people stay fit, healthy and connected and our Insite app offers digital monthly workshops, online fitness classes, competitions and more.”

“We’ve got so much going on that people can’t get at home – and that’s encouraging people back into the office,” Hopgood-Bould adds. “Our aim is to create places where people thrive.”

We have really ramped up our in-building activations to help people stay fit, healthy and connected and our Insite app offers digital monthly workshops, online fitness classes, competitions and more.”

Melanie Hopgood-Bould,  Head of Occupant Experience


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