ResearchWGBC report: UK facing workplace wellness investment shortfall

UK employers are still yet to place sufficient importance on creating workplaces that are conducive to the long-term wellbeing of their employees, suggests our own analysis of the latest World Green Building Trends report.
Joanna Watchman8 months ago7 min

Whilst there is a general perception that wellness is rising up the list of corporate priorities, the extent and nature of implementation remains distinctly variable in terms of both sector and geography. And according to the World Green Building Trends 2018 report (1) – which was produced by Dodge Data and Analytics on behalf of the World Green Building Council (WGBC) – the present situation in the UK offers significant cause for concern.

The report focuses on responses from the 20 countries which provided statistically valid response levels to the survey. At the most fundamental level the report confirms that the UK is by no means near the front of the pack for green projects; it asked how many firms had done more than 60% Green Projects in 2018 and the UK ranked only 12 out of 20.

Looking ahead, the report identifies seven sectors earmarked for green activity over the next few years, including commercial construction, institutional construction, retrofit of existing buildings, high-rise residential, low-rise residential, green communities and commercial interiors. Alas, the UK only appears in the top five countries in one of these sectors – low-rise residential – whereas Ireland scores a creditable four appearances.

Where green projects are taking place in the UK, it is frequently general client demands and environmental regulations that motivate them as opposed to ‘social’ reasons. Although the top two social factors – the promotional of occupational health and wellbeing, and the encouragement of sustainable building practices – were selected by three-quarters of survey participants, UK respondents fell outside the top three for all six of the stated social reason options.

It’s not all gloom as at least the report indicates that awareness of wellness issues is firmly in the ascendant. Across geographical boundaries lower operating costs and improved occupant health and wellbeing were – overwhelmingly – the top two green building benefits that respondents felt were most important. Most encouragingly, increasing worker productivity was relatively highly valued by UK respondents, with 50% selecting it as a primary social/environmental reason for building green, against a 42% average across European participants.

In general, however, these findings confirm that there is a long way to go in terms of both increasing the number of green building projects in the UK, and enhancing the centrality of wellness to those schemes that do go ahead.

No time to lose

The current uncertainties facing the UK economy mean that the need to address wellness has arguably never been more acute. According to the latest figures from the Health & Safety Executive (2), 26.8 million working days were lost due to work-related ill-health in 2017/18. On average, each person suffering took around 16.5 days off work, with stress, depression and anxiety accounting for the largest single share. Indeed, the number of ill-health cases related to these factors rose by 13% on the previous year.

Whilst the nature of Brexit remains unknown at the time of writing, few would argue against the probability of (at best) substantial economic fluctuations over the next few years. Given this it’s to be expected that there is now a renewed focus on productivity and the threat posed to it by rising levels of illness in the workplace.

It also follows that nurturing healthy offices and factories – well and consistently lit, with good air quality and effective noise control – should be considered not just an internal/private imperative, but a national one too. During such a period of change it makes sense for companies of all sizes and shapes to review their processes, and it’s beyond doubt that delivering step-changes in working conditions constitutes one of the clearest ways of boosting output and safeguarding economic prosperity.

This article has been authored for Work In Mind by Content Coms.

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Sources: 

1: WGBC Trends 2018

2: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/dayslost.htm

Joanna Watchman

Joanna Watchman is our founder. She is a communications consultant specialising in the built environment and technology sectors. Having spent years writing, thinking and talking about the way buildings could (and should) be more in tune with the people that use them, Joanna decided to create Work in Mind. She is on a mission to bring together all those who believe in smarter, more connected human-centric buildings.

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