ExclusivesStandardsThinkingDoes your well-being strategy address your ESG goals? IWBI offers guidance on reporting workplace ESG performance metrics

Penny Goodall-Quraishi, Director, EMEA Region at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) explains why organisations need to pay attention to human capital reporting as a route to measure, disclose and benchmark the health and well-being of their people.
Content Team11 months ago12 min

The world of work has shifted considerably since early 2020. Human resources (HR) teams have contended with major challenges including working from home, addressing health and safety in the workplace amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and supporting employee health and well-being. At the same time, reporting and disclosure on human and social capital management through the lens of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is becoming common practice.

Gallup research shows that only 24 percent of employees participate in workplace well-being programmes, and that their efficacy depends largely on the underlying organisational culture.1 Offering a well-being programme, no matter how well-intended, does not guarantee the improvement of employee well-being.

The HR profession, however, still holds the key to unlocking the potential for a much wider and more sustainable integration of health and well-being practices at work. HR teams are uniquely positioned to steer the health and well-being agenda in organisations and drive a systemic approach to positive human and social impact. Re-evaluating an organisation’s approach to well-being is fast becoming a business imperative. As we look towards 2022, it may be worthwhile to consider if your workplace well-being strategy is fit for the year ahead.

Do you have a series of well-being initiatives or a holistic well-being strategy?

Traditionally, well-being has been translated by employers into a series of initiatives which are typically separate from an organisation’s overall business strategy. Workplace well-being should, however, be a continuous thread that runs through every operational decision, a cultural lens that guides everything that an organisation does and how they do it. A holistic well-being strategy is therefore key.

In 2014, IWBI launched the WELL Building Standard (WELL), the leading global framework for scaling health across your organisation. WELL helps organisations manage the health of their employees as rigorously as they do their P&L, providing pathways for leaders at all levels to embed people-first strategies into workplaces and organisational culture. Developed over 10 years and backed by the latest scientific research, WELL sets pathways for accomplishing health-first factors that help every one of us to do our best work and be our best selves by supporting physical and mental health across 10 core concepts.

While WELL provides a set of tools, the effectiveness of any strategy, and how much people engage with it, will unquestionably depend on the leadership team’s commitment to developing and maintaining a culture of health across the organisation.

Have your policies and benefits been updated to reflect the changing workplace?

Before the pandemic, well-being focused benefits might have been known only to those who knew to look for them. Employee health was typically considered a peripheral and altruistic concern, which could at best attract higher quality talent and reduce turnover. But the current global health crisis has helped make clear that protecting worker health and ensuring employee resilience are key to any organisation’s ability to succeed. To remain of value to employees who may be working in the office, or in a remote or hybrid setting, organisations must rethink the range of benefits that they offer and the way in which they are delivered. One framework for helping deliver these benefits is the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management. Drawing on a subset of features from the WELL Building Standard, the rating is an evidence-based, third-party verified rating for all facility types focused on operational policies, maintenance protocols, stakeholder engagement and emergency plans to help address COVID-19 now and broader health and safety-related issues into the future.

Are your workplace policies up-to-date and inclusive of your entire workforce? Do they meet the current and future well-being needs of your business? Do they support flexibility and new ways of working? Do they reflect your culture and values? These are a few questions worth asking to ensure that the evolving needs of your employees are supported.

Are your well-being metrics aligned with your ESG goals?

Human capital reporting plays a vital role in helping organisations measure, disclose and benchmark the health and well-being of their people. This data can be used to ensure companies include a clear and consistent narrative on how they invest in, develop and manage the health and well-being of their people. This critical information also links to business strategy and performance in a company’s annual reports.

Every £1 spent on workplace health initiatives produces a return on investment of between £2 and £34

With ESG and corporate sustainability reporting demanding more from leadership, we are seeing businesses seeking to prove that they have a positive impact not just on the environment, but on the employees, communities and customers they serve. Are you able to demonstrate your return on your health and well-being investment?

Does your well-being strategy address your ESG goals?

AON’s Benefits and Trends Survey shows that every £1 spent on workplace health initiatives produces a return on investment of between £2 and £34.2 A McKinsey survey revealed that 80 percent of companies that took concrete actions on health saw an improvement to their earnings and shareholder returns.3 An organisation with a well-considered, holistic well-being strategy, that genuinely promotes and values the health of employees will benefit from improved engagement and retention of employees with consequent gains to their bottom line.

In November, IWBI launched the WELL ESG Reporting Guide as a tool for organisations to leverage WELL achievements and enhance annual, ESG and sustainability storytelling. As more regulatory frameworks push for ESG performance metrics from organisations, this kind of reporting will become imperative for institutional growth.

Whilst everyone has been affected by the pandemic, each experience is unique. Some employees are optimistic about the opportunities that starting a new year could bring, while others may begin 2022 with greater apprehension and anxiety than usual. With an effective well-being strategy in place, whatever 2022 brings, your organisation can drive authentic and sustainable changes to improve human health and well-being.


Penny Goodall-Quraishi is a former human capital executive and currently serves as Director, EMEA Region, at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the leading authority for transforming health and well-being with its people-first approach to buildings, organisations and communities.

Penny Goodall-Quraishi
Penny Goodall-Quraishi

1. Gallup Research

2. AON’s Benefits and Trends Survey

3: McKinsey Survey

Content Team

Work in Mind is a content platform designed to give a voice to thinkers, businesses, journalists and regulatory bodies in the field of healthy buildings.

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