According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Health and Wellbeing at Work survey which examines trends in health, wellbeing and absence in UK workplaces, there are three key benefits of employers increasing their focus on employee wellness.
A healthier and more inclusive culture; better work-life balance and improved employee morale and engagement were all identified by the CIPD survey as resulting directly from employers upping their game in terms of bettering workplace wellness.
The survey, conducted in partnership with Simplyhealth, concluded that health and wellbeing should not have to be treated as an ‘add-on’ or ‘nice-to-have’ activity by organisations. It suggests that if employers place employee wellness at the centre of their business model, viewing it as the ‘vital source of value creation’, then the dividends for organisational health can be considerable.
What is the value of employee wellness?
The CIPD, the association for human resource management professionals, says that employers have historically measured the negative impact of workplace ill health, such as the implications of sickness absence on productivity. However, they believe there is greater emphasis these days on a more positive business case, with growing evidence showing a positive link between employee wellness programmes and improved engagement and performance levels.
Going back to the survey, evidence of a variety of unhealthy working practices was revealed, such as ‘presenteeism’ and ‘leaveism’.
Presenteeism refers to people turning up to work despite being unwell, with 65% of surveyed organisations reporting the phenomenon in a physical workplace. Leaveism refers to people using holiday entitlement to cover sick leave, and was reported by 67% of organisations surveyed.
What are the pillars of workplace wellbeing?
The CIPD has identified seven related pillars, or what they call ‘domains’, of employee wellness.
- Health – including physical and mental health and physical safety
- Good work – including a well-designed working environment and good line management
- Values / principles – including values-based leadership, instilling a health and wellbeing strategy, and promoting ethical standards and inclusion and diversity practices
- Collective / social – including supporting the employee voice and encouraging positive and healthy relationships
- Personal growth – including fostering an open and collaborative culture and lifelong learning, and supporting career development
- Good lifestyle choices – including encouraging physical activity and healthy eating
- Financial wellbeing – including fair pay and benefits policies, retirement planning and employee financial support
Can technology help support employee wellness?
A number of the CIPD’s domains of employee wellbeing can be supported through the adoption of smart building technology.
From improving physical health and safety at work, to enhancing the working environment and workplace comfort, to supporting the social and community aspects of working life, smart building technology has the power to create healthy buildings and workspaces and to foster employee wellness.
Like a sustainable city, a healthy building considers the impact of its environment on those who live, work or spend time within it. Also much like a sustainable city, the healthy building promotes sustainable consumption. And all of this is supported by smart building technology.
Here are some specific examples of how smart building technology can help create a healthy building and support many of the CIPD domains of employee wellness.
Indoor air quality monitoring
Indoor air quality can significantly impact the health of a building, and its occupants. Numerous studies have indicated that indoor air can often have greater negative effects on health than outside air, with cognitive performance and productivity considerably affected.
Office equipment and new furnishings can release chemicals, known as volatile organic compounds, which are associated with ‘sick building syndrome’.
‘Sick building syndrome’ is the name given to symptoms such as headaches; blocked or runny nose; dry, itchy skin; dry and sore eyes or throat; coughing or wheezing; skin rashes and tiredness, and difficulty concentrating.
Whilst the causes of sick building syndrome are not completely clear, it is thought to be due to a combination of elements, such as inadequate ventilation or poorly maintained air conditioning systems; airborne dust, smoke, fumes or fabric fibres and unbalanced indoor humidity levels.
A building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is responsible for maintaining good indoor air quality, especially where there is no reliable source of fresh air.
It is the job of the HVAC system to filter incoming air and then route it to wherever it is needed most, either for heating or cooling. Dust, allergens, pollutants and other particles are all removed to help purify the air and improve its quality.
The problem is that indoor air quality needs continuous monitoring to ensure it is maintained at safe levels. Doing this manually is time consuming and prone to human error.
The good news is that smart building technology, in particular Smart HVAC, will support this ongoing monitoring, courtesy of Internet of Things (IoT) powered sensors. The sensors feed data back to a central platform that will alert building managers of movement outside of optimum levels so that they can take action to protect occupants.
Smart HVAC also has the power to automatically control inputs to building management systems, for example increasing or decreasing outdoor air flow rates in line with changes in occupation rates or outdoor pollution levels.
Finally, with smart HVAC, individual employees can also control the heating and air conditioning within their immediate workspaces, so they get to create their own perfect working environment in terms of temperature.
Studies have shown that the quality of lighting in a workplace can have a significant impact on comfort and employee wellness, and that a lack of adequate lighting can reduce efficiency and productivity.
Attempting to achieve optimum lighting conditions in any workspace, however, can be a challenging task if you trying to do it manually. And this is precisely why ‘smart lighting’ has become so popular.
Smart lighting plays an essential role in smart workplace technology. It has the power to transform not just workplace comfort and employee wellness, but also staff retention, talent acquisition and general workforce morale and productivity.
It works by recognising the optimum lighting settings for a particular space and responding by making changes to achieve those settings.
As well as real time data collected by Internet of Things (IoT) devices, smart lighting makes use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to remember personal user preferences and common reactions to environmental variations. It then uses this information to create automations that react to changing requirements, without the need for human intervention.
Employees also get to control the lighting in their own personal workspace via a smartphone app, so they feel their personal needs are valued, whilst enjoying their own optimum working conditions.
Smart lighting control systems also support ‘biodynamic lighting’ which is a type of artificial light that can simulate the dynamic variations of daylight and sunlight. It replicates the rhythm of natural light so that it coincides with the biological clock, which can positively affect vision, as well as overall employee wellness.
One of the CIPD domains of employee wellness covers the collective and social aspects of the workplace.
There are many ways to create a sense of community at work, from enhancing communications and organising events, to creating group networks.
Whilst smart building technologies vary in terms of their individual features, some do incorporate smart office community features, such as social walls featuring newsfeed style local events, special offers and community chat forums, all available at the tap of a smartphone app.
How can Smart Spaces help achieve employee wellness?
Smart Spaces is a cloud-based platform that uses internet-connected sensors fitted around a building to collate useful data about indoor air quality, temperature and lighting.
When integrated into a building management system, it has the power to deliver highly valuable information courtesy of a single dashboard, allowing employee wellness goals to be directly managed.
To discover how Smart Spaces could help you achieve many of the key pillars of employee wellness, you are welcome to get in touch, or request a demo.