Wellbeing in the workplace: Get happy and thrive

Fun times can have a positive effect on a company's bottom line
Remember the three Cs and you could see a boost in productivity.
The idea that employee wellbeing can impact a company’s bottom line isn’t a new one. Back in the 1970s, the US Worksite Health Promotion movement campaigned for firms to think of staff health and happiness as an essential ingredient in productivity. And many large companies (Google, Apple) have since turned away from the traditional cramped cubicle space, incorporating ergonomics into office design – even “napping pods” in The Huffington Post’s case.
But research released today by the British Council for Offices (BCO) and Morgan Lovell finds that UK companies may still not be doing enough to promote wellbeing among their employees. While 74 per cent of the 2,400 UK office workers surveyed said the design of their workplace supports their physical wellbeing, 54 per cent complained that their corporate culture does not. So what’s to be done?
The research highlights “three Cs” (control, care and collaboration) that can help boost wellbeing beyond physical office design. But a number of firms (mainly tech startups) are going even further, embracing the quantified office movement.

THE CULTURE FACTOR

UK firms are doing fairly well on the office design front, according to the BCO and Morgan Lovell report. Companies like Nuffield Health and PwC have led the way by opening up their offices to floods of natural light and bringing in “contemplation spaces” like courtyard areas.
But this isn’t enough, say the report’s authors. “For all the transformations to the world of work, some key aspects of culture are being left behind.” Potted plants and comfy chairs are all very well, but working culture is just as vital. Almost 90 per cent of those surveyed said their wellbeing is diminished by a lack of control over their day-to-day activities, and the report recommends allowing employees a greater level of autonomy and flexible working to resolve this.
Further, making sure staff care about their work and are encouraged to collaborate more (the second and third Cs) can help. The report found that 94 per cent said they’d feel a “better sense of wellbeing” if they were made to feel like their job had more meaning. “Employers can respond by appealing to people’s desire for authenticity, and by communicating what they do and why, openly and regularly.”

THE TECH OPPORTUNITY

Cultural factors may be important (and cheaper than employing an architect), but others are taking a more scientific approach to staff wellbeing. The Outside View, a London startup, has a Health, Wealth and Happiness programme, with employees using smartphone apps to track the amount of time they sleep, the distance they walk, their diet, and happiness levels. The information is then used to find ways of boosting productivity and preventing staff burnout. It’s costly, but with wearable devices set to become more widely available in coming years, expect these “quantified workplaces” to become more common.

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If wellbeing is so important to your productivity at work, it may be worth keeping a track of your moods throughout the week to find patterns you might otherwise miss. This is exactly what MoodPanda allows you to do, displaying the information with a series of colourful graphs and other visuals. Some users complain that it just told them what they already knew, but others claim features like the “Mood Calendar” have helped them with problems related to stress or anxiety.

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