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Health & Wellness EU Roundtable Recap

​End User Roundtables offer an opportunity for executives responsible for overseeing and managing real estate for some of the Mid-Atlantic Region’s most dynamic companies to discuss and share best practices. One recent roundtable focused on health and wellness in the workplace. Just a few years ago, this topic would have been squarely in the purview of the HR department. But today, the physical design and amenities offered are as much a part of the equation in recruiting and retaining the best talent as are benefits, salary and flexibility. The message is clear: Employees want to be in places that promote their physical and mental well-being and for companies to be competitive, they must create those places. Here is how some of these companies are doing just that.

Rooms for Reflection and Privacy
All of the participants talked about how important it is to provide places where employees can find quiet and privacy. The end user representatives noted that 80 to 90 percent of their workplaces are open plan. Employees need spaces to take a break. One of the most popular benefits are “Mother Rooms,” dedicated space for nursing mothers to pump in private. At Marriott, they offer 20 such private spaces with pumps and lockers. At Capital One, these Mother Rooms are one of the most popular benefits. Others talked about having “reflection rooms,” some outfitted with prayer sinks and others just quiet places to recharge or think. While these spaces are sometimes referred to as “Wellness Rooms,” some cautioned that they want to discourage employees who are not feeling well from using them because if they are sick they should be at home.

Wellness Options Move Outside
Discussions of healthy workplaces usually focus on the interior spaces and how to bring in natural light, enhance air quality, etc.  Many companies are also looking at how better to use their outdoor spaces.  At Capital One’s Richmond campus, for example, they have created outdoor, private co-working spaces, with umbrellas and nano walls to offer employees the option to work outside.

Making Health and Wellness Convenient
With long hours and even longer commutes, having convenient access to health and wellness options is a coveted employee benefit. At Capital One’s Tysons campus, the company has an onsite pharmacy, as well as physical therapy, to enhance health and productivity. Marriott offers onsite daycare for 100 children. While others noted that they don’t have day care onsite, they do contract with providers to offer emergency day care for employees.

Certifications for Health and Wellness Less Important
While there has been a lot of buzz about WELL Building, Fitwell and other certifications of healthy workplaces, the executives say they are currently not pursuing them because some of the policies are too restrictive and their value isn’t clear. They do look at the standards as a guide and are incorporating them where it makes the most sense. The most important thing, participants noted, is to do the right things for employees not necessarily to chase points for certifications.

Wellness and Behavior
One of the big ironies about bringing wellness options to the workplace is that people don’t always use them. People say they want these options, but to do so means making changes in their behavior. At Volkswagen, for example, there is a fitness trainer on site for six hours a day, but employees aren’t taking full advantage of this perk. Some end users have gotten treadmill desks. Because these are often located in public places like cafeterias or other common rooms, few want to use them because they are uncomfortable having other people see them. 

Avoiding Corporate Nannyism
The end users reported that in their quest to offer wellness options they must strike the right balance. Their goal is to make health natural, not something forced upon employees.

There is no question that health and wellness is an integral part of the management and development of corporate real estate. While it is hard to measure the ROI of these efforts, all of the participants noted that what matters is doing the right thing and giving employees the flexibility and opportunity to be in places that promote their physical and mental well being.