The Leader Magazine

MAR 2019

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36 March 2019 the leader F E A T U R E A R T I C L E Workplace health and wellbeing widens in scope and importance by Beth Mattson-Teig H ealth and wellbeing in the workplace is a topic that has been on the radar for organizations for years. Strategies and programs continue to evolve and push further into the mainstream as employers increase their commitment to help workers be happier, healthier and more productive. While, globally, organizations are at very different stages in developing strategies aimed at supporting a healthy work environment, it is increasingly clear that this is not a topic that is being acknowledged only once a year; rather, it is an issue that is becoming a critical component in day-to- day operations. For many firms, the starting point is the physical health of employees, with an emphasis on fitness and nutrition. However, over the past few years, focus has grown to employees' general wellbeing, which includes physical, emotional and cognitive aspects. This more holistic approach is tied to a major shift occurring in mature economies in white-collar work, from process work to much higher expectations on creativity, learning and collaboration. "To be productive as a creative worker requires engagement. Employees need to understand and connect to the meaning of what they are doing," said Beatriz Arantes, manager, WorkSpace Futures at Steelcase. There is a need to use cognitive resources wisely and respect the rhythms of the brain, as creativity isn't something that can be commanded at will. The scope of workplace wellbeing strategies and where a company is in implementing those strategies varies widely depending on factors such as the individual organization's leadership and culture. Many corporations are also facing the increased challenge of developing strategies that are relevant for employees from different generations, with unique lifestyle preferences, cultural differences, and mobile/remote workers or contractors. Some also see health and wellbeing the "second wave" of sustainability, the first being environmentalism, energy efficiency and climate change that influenced aspects of the workplace, such as waste reduction and the selection of green building materials, said Alex Spilger, WELL faculty, WELL AP, LEED AP, senior vice president/director of sustainability at Cushman & Wakefield. Competing for top talent Companies have different motivations for investing in health and wellbeing strategies. Globally, one of the big drivers is competition for top talent and the exceptionally tight labor market that exists in certain sectors and countries. "When unemployment is low, organizations try to find real differentiators in the reward space and in the office culture that can attract and retain talent," said Michael Gilmartin, a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting LLP. With the high demand for talent in the tech world, workplace wellbeing/wellness programs have become a standard part of the employment package. "(Employers) are realizing that the way they are going to get the best and brightest is to create the best environment to work in," said Regan Donoghue, WELL AP, regional workplace manager at Newmark Global Strategy, a consulting division of Newmark Knight Frank. Silicon Valley companies have taken an early lead in embracing wellbeing strategies and making them more accessible, since employees work long hours and might not be able to leave work to go to the gym or get a healthy meal. Different parts of the world have different motivations for offering health and wellbeing programs. In the U.S., one of the early drivers has been rising health insurance costs, while in many Western European countries, the protection of worker wellbeing has been baked into workplace regulation. According to Arantes, "There are spatial regulations, but also other

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