Wellness is the new wealth

Could your office heal heal health risks? 

The arti­cle rep­re­sents sub­jec­tive opin­ions of Hines Inter­ests Lim­it­ed Part­ner­ship (“Hines”),1 the spon­sor of invest­ment vehi­cles offered by Hines Secu­ri­ties, Inc. (“Hines Secu­ri­ties”). Oth­er mar­ket par­tic­i­pants may rea­son­ably have dif­fer­ing opinions. 

Social iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness can break your heart—literally. A recent U.S. Sur­geon Gen­er­al report2 found that social iso­la­tion, poor social sup­port and lone­li­ness are asso­ci­at­ed with a 29% increase in the risk of heart dis­ease and a 32% increase in the risk of stroke—among many oth­er health risks, includ­ing a short­ened life. These find­ings seem to under­score a major down­side of remote-only work—the missed oppor­tu­ni­ties to build social con­nec­tions and com­mu­ni­ty at the office that could help your over­all health.

The case for workplace well-being 

Social iso­la­tion has been ris­ing in the Unit­ed States in recent decades. Long before the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, approx­i­mate­ly half of U.S. adults were expe­ri­enc­ing lone­li­ness dai­ly, accord­ing to the U.S. Sur­geon General’s report.

Social con­nect­ed­ness is a sig­nif­i­cant pre­dic­tor of longevi­ty and bet­ter over­all health, the U.S. Sur­geon Gen­er­al report found. Con­nect­ed­ness can also influ­ence a person’s lev­el of edu­ca­tion, work­place sat­is­fac­tion, eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty, and over­all feel­ings of well-being and life fulfillment—and it cre­ates more resilient com­mu­ni­ties, too.

These find­ings coin­cide with employ­ees’ new work­place expec­ta­tions for health and well-being. Gallup research found that employ­ees who strong­ly agreed that their employ­er cared about their well-being were 69% less like­ly than employ­ees else­where to active­ly search for a new job—and were 71% less like­ly to report burnout.3

Invest­ing in work­place well-being can pro­duce sig­nif­i­cant returns for employ­ers in terms of tal­ent reten­tion and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. So, busi­ness­es are tak­ing note: in fact, 64% of employ­ers are expand­ing or plan to expand efforts around men­tal health and emo­tion­al well-being in 2023, accord­ing to a recent PwC sur­vey.4

Well-being is multi-demensional 

Hines believes well-being spans mul­ti­ple dimen­sions of human expe­ri­ence, bridg­ing the intel­lec­tu­al, occu­pa­tion­al, social, phys­i­cal, envi­ron­men­tal, spir­i­tu­al, emo­tion­al, and finan­cial realms. In the work­place, well-being ele­ments can include every­thing from indoor air qual­i­ty to thought­ful space design and ameni­ties to fit­ness incen­tives, engag­ing social events and com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice activities.

Hines views well-being as start­ing in a build­ing itself, with the engi­neers who fine-tune heat­ing, cool­ing and ven­ti­la­tion or man­age smart build­ing sys­tems that auto­mat­i­cal­ly adjust tem­per­a­ture and air flow in response to occu­pan­cy lev­els. A Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty study5 esti­mat­ed that a busi­ness will see a $6,500 per employ­ee, per year, increase in employ­ee pro­duc­tiv­i­ty when its office build­ings are healthy per the stan­dards of the World Health Organization. 

With employ­ee well-being top of mind, many com­pa­nies are choos­ing new­er build­ings with Fitwel, WELL, LEED IAQ, or oth­er healthy build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, such as Tour Hekla and T3 RiNo in Den­ver, and design­ing work­places with ele­ments known to improve mood and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Plen­ti­ful nat­ur­al light, open sight lines, out­door views and bio­philic design, for exam­ple, may reduce stress and spark inspi­ra­tion. Pro­vid­ing ade­quate lac­ta­tion suites, onsite health ser­vices, inclu­sive design and prayer rooms may also help employ­ees feel valued.

With­in the work­place, care­ful­ly curat­ed ameni­ties also may ben­e­fit well-being. Glob­al employ­ee research by JLL6 finds that relax­ation space, out­door space and healthy food options are the top three expec­ta­tions for office ameni­ties relat­ed to recharg­ing. And let us not for­get: good cof­fee is always a must. Some orga­ni­za­tions have incor­po­rat­ed new kinds of spaces, such as tech­nol­o­gy-free zones, infrared saunas, recov­ery zones, yoga spaces and treat­ment rooms, in addi­tion to dif­fer­ent kinds of work­spaces, desk options and ergonom­ic chairs. But it’s not just about the work­place. It’s also about under­stand­ing how to com­pli­ment the places employ­ees choose to work out­side of the office.

Choice and inclu­siv­i­ty are key fac­tors when it comes to work­place well­ness,” said Whit­ney Burns, senior vice pres­i­dent of Glob­al Client Strat­e­gy & Expe­ri­ence at Hines. It is imper­a­tive to active­ly lis­ten to what employ­ees need in order to feel val­ued, con­nect­ed and inspired. Humans are com­plex, there is no one-size-fits-all. We have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do so much more than just return to office.’ Let’s take advan­tage of that.”

Programming for social connections and well-being 

Work­place expe­ri­ences and con­ve­niences may also con­tribute to well-being, from reduc­ing the stress of dai­ly life to increas­ing social con­nec­tiv­i­ty. Employ­ers and their land­lords can make social­iz­ing a strate­gic pri­or­i­ty in the work­place, which may cul­ti­vate a cul­ture of con­nec­tion that makes the office a mag­net, rather than a man­date. Near­ly any build­ing has the poten­tial to cre­ate a thriv­ing ver­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ty of peo­ple who choose to be there and to engage in the com­mu­ni­ty around them. The work­place has enor­mous poten­tial for reduc­ing the risks of social iso­la­tion by fos­ter­ing feel­ings of con­nec­tion, belong­ing, inclu­sive­ness, a sense of pur­pose and oth­er ele­ments of emo­tion­al and social well-being.

In Hines-man­aged facil­i­ties, health and well-being takes the form of pop-ups, pro­grams, on-site ser­vices, strate­gic part­ners, and curat­ed spaces with­in the office.

A build­ing blood dri­ve, onsite men­tor­ship pro­grams or oth­er onsite phil­an­thropic activ­i­ty may pro­vide a mean­ing­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty for peo­ple to social­ize while mak­ing a vital com­mu­ni­ty contribution—all with­out leav­ing the work­place. Diverse expe­ri­ences that align with the val­ues, inter­ests and pri­or­i­ties of the work­place com­mu­ni­ty spark con­nec­tiv­i­ty, inspi­ra­tion, and motivation.

Con­ve­nience also mat­ters. Hines believes that on-site ser­vices such as pack­age return, auto main­te­nance, tai­lor­ing, vac­cines, mam­mog­ra­phy, eye exams and more help peo­ple feel more pro­duc­tive in life, not just in work. When employ­ees are able to accom­plish more per­son­al­ly at the work­place, that may cre­ate val­ue to mak­ing the com­mute. Hines believes the key is using data to tai­lor work­place ini­tia­tives to the needs, pref­er­ences, and inter­ests of the build­ing occupants.

With the ide­al mix of expe­ri­ences, the vast major­i­ty of employ­ees would return to the office, accord­ing to Gensler7 research. Clear­ly, while work­place well-being may require invest­ment, Hines sees a work­force that is engaged, con­nect­ed, and cared for as worth its weight in gold.