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Jul 31, 2017


Workplace Wellness? Both Trend and Need

A relatively new challenge for employers is taking care of employees’ health. Experts say that sitting is the new smoking, i.e. harmful to health, as proven by leading companies’ research. CBRE’s global research shows that up to 80% of employees select a new employer or decide to stay with a current employer subject to whether an employer offers workplace wellness programmes.

Wellness programmes are far from new. Companies and researchers have been considering multiple influences for a long time, and have concluded that good health and work efficiency are closely related. Healthy and happy employees have fewer sick days and are more productive – so wellness programmes are often components of healthy offices. Forward-looking successful companies have recognised the shift from sustainable environments to employee-retention environments. And significant demographic and social changes in recent years have led to wellness programmes becoming a top corporate priority.

What is a wellness programme?

It’s a modification of workplace and work activities aimed at supporting good health and the physical and mental well-being of employees - corporate strategic programmes that ensure opportunities for companies to build successful and sustainable businesses. They create an important competitive advantage by reducing employee healthcare costs, eliminating frequent work absences, increasing labour productivity, and retaining talent. Wellness programmes include the mental and physical relaxation of employees.

The workplace where employees spend so much time is also important. That’s also why companies around the world are turning to healthy offices. What does the concept mean? Simply put – healthy offices are modern administrative buildings and premises that meet international values (WELL Building Standard) and emphasize the following factors: optimal air ventilation, good quality water and water intake, sufficient daylight, physical activity (movement), healthy nutrition, and comfort at work.


The importance of launching health programmes has also been shown by numerous global trends. The CBRE Global Workplace Innovation project identified five trends that support the need to introduce workplace wellness programmes. Successful organisations are those that respond by reviewing their approach to wellness, and incorporating both mental and physical health and wellbeing. What are the trends?

  1. Employees are living and working longer. Many parts of the world have ageing workforces. Since 2005, the average global life expectancy for women and men has improved, pushing back retirement – so we’ll work for longer than ever before. The survey found that employees place higher value on non-financial factors, such as flexible work and home working, rather than financial benefits.
  2. Declining health. Although we’re living longer, we’re not necessarily living healthier. Worldwide obesity has nearly doubled since 1980, and chronic ailments such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes now account for over 60% of all deaths worldwide. A key consequence of declining health is rising healthcare costs. Employers often try to limit employees' absences, and promote healthy lifestyles in various ways.
  3. Key skills are scarce. The “fight for talent” and efforts to retain such talent will continue in the future, and according to the CBRE survey, a wellness programme can represent a competitive advantage.
  4. Increased awareness of stress and mindfulness. Most people experience stress during a normal working week, and it’s a major cause of burnout and depression. According to the CBRE survey, 79% of respondents stated that balancing private and professional commitments was stressful. This causes reduced work performance, with affected employees missing an average 24 working days per annum, i.e. over 10% of the working year.

Fifty-three percent identified the ‘always on’ culture as another source of stress – with the downside of digital technologies being the relentless pressure to instantly communicate and respond. People reach for the mobile over 150 times a day, and many rarely disconnect for fear of missing out. Yet some companies are taking steps to combat the pressure to remain connected: Volkswagen’s ‘email amnesty’ limits access to work devices after core business hours for most staff; and Daimler has introduced an email auto-delete option for employees on holiday.

  1. Technology makes it easier to monitor and manage health. Various tech companies offer a wide range of gadgets and apps to help us get fitter, faster and stronger, which results in better healthcare and well-being. These apps also make us do something extra and take better care of ourselves.

Let's finally look at some relatively quick and inexpensive workplace solutions for simple wellness options in the short term. Although it’s important for companies to also address this trend from the comprehensive, long-term perspective.

How can companies promote occupational health?

  • Customize offices to impel people to move around (place kitchenette, coffee machine, copier, etc. a short stroll away)
  • Offer yoga or Pilates during lunch breaks
  • Contribute to gym fees
  • Let optimal natural light into the workspace
  • Ask suppliers to offer healthy food such as fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Inspire employees to perform brief stretching exercises after periods of sitting
  • Allow people to work from different locations, outside the office, introduce flexi-work
  • Educate employees about the importance of a healthy lifestyle