The Wellness Equation: Office Amenities And Spaces Combine To Combat Burnout
Burnout is not a new phenomenon, but it is on the rise as the pandemic makes forced remote work a lingering reality. Even those people who initially embraced work-from-home can’t hide from increased levels of stress and mental fatigue. Too much solitude, household chaos and the pressure to be “always on” have added to feelings of burnout and isolation, with the World Health Organization issuing new guidance to help protect employees’ physical, mental and social well-being as hybrid and remote work continue.
We’ve all emerged from the fog of the past two years with new priorities and a clearer vision about what we want from work, which is reflected in a growing body of research. People expect a much more flexible and open approach. They want their environment to support them not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
With a tremendous amount of buying power, today’s worker is comparison shopping their employer, not the other way around. And the physical work environment, including the building that houses the office, is more important than ever.
Wellness, safety, and sustainability are foundational return-to-work tenets
For building owners and investors, this means providing the amenities and services that today’s worker demand, encompassing wellness, safety and sustainability to support every aspect of health—physical, social and mental.
For many corporations that recognize the value of an in-person experience, this is the chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity to reconcile wellbeing with performance. For building owners that want to see their properties bustling, it’s an opportunity to make tenants feel safe, energized, and loyal to the property.
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Amenities bring the zen
The most requested Covid-era office amenities have a common thread woven throughout: achieving peace through wellness.
Relaxation spaces tucked away from main traffic areas are now the most requested office amenity. Reclining chairs behind curtains or doors, quiet areas to reflect without interruption, and nap pods can all contribute to a work environment that people will enjoy. Forty-five percent of respondents to JLL’s Future of Work study indicated that access to relaxation spaces is their highest priority, while only 17 percent currently have access to those types of spaces.
Access to healthy food is the second-most desired office amenity, whether it’s provided within the tenant’s individual suite or through the building’s food service. This trend is signaling a palpable re-birth, where a critical mass of workers has decided they want more options than fast food or shelf-stable snacks. A very low percentage of employees report currently having access to healthy food choices, making it a tremendous opportunity for immediate change.
Outdoor spaces and gardens provide the connection to nature and fresh air that humans crave – and a place to enjoy the healthy food accessible at the property. As our priorities have shifted and different things give us comfort, even something as ubiquitous as a plant has new value. Because many individual tenant spaces don’t have private terraces or patios, an alternative strategy is to create common areas around the best views. In modern office building design, the integration of common outdoor space for breaks or even outdoor working is standard practice and visionary developments may include rooftop event spaces and multiple public spaces to integrate nature into office life.
Fitness centers, having grown in popularity in office settings for decades, are now designed with greater sophistication, state-of-the-art machines, and thoughtful programming including group classes, health challenges, and personal training. Rather than being tucked away into dark corners of a building, today’s fitness centers offer views from higher floors and bring nature into the room with plant walls and other green touches.
Services add the wow
The addition of personalized services will play a significant role in creating a more welcoming workplace.
Building owners are increasingly adding experiential services to support a setting steeped in hospitality. There has been a rapid rise in experience manager (XM) roles that supplement the traditional property manager services. An XM is placed on property with one overarching goal – make the lives of tenants more convenient and less stressful.
For many people, fallout from Covid includes heightened sensitivities to the proximity to others and the cleanliness of our environments. Groundbreaking apps and technology support contactless building operations. Now, we can prompt an elevator, admit guests, submit work orders, reserve conference rooms and so much more – right from our smart phones. Smart buildings offer high-tech amenities to help tenants seamlessly integrate their work and personal lives, while tenant-level apps provide their unique value by helping companies manage a complex hybrid employee experience.
There’s no place like home, right?
The office—and office buildings—must evolve to offer an experience as comfortable as home, but with compelling, energic spaces and a sense of community that isn’t available in most residential settings. Amid rising hybrid work and the isolation that has so far accompanied it, buildings owners and corporate tenants have an opportunity to commit to putting people’s physical, social, and mental health at the center of their space. The result? Happy, healthy employees who are empowered to do their best work and are more likely to stay.