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Why promoting workplace wellbeing is crucial to the success of UK businesses

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In every business the workforce is selected by an individual’s suitability for a certain role, in the same way that we all gravitate towards a workplace based on where we want to spend our time.

However, a recent survey to find Britain’s Healthiest Company brought about some concerns for the nation’s businesses. A regional breakdown of different workplaces has revealed that, dependent on where you work, your job could actually be causing you to age beyond your years.

This development of a “work age” takes everything from exercise and diet to blood pressure and depression into account, and it isn’t necessarily surprising. Many businesses are acutely aware of the importance of remaining active, healthy and balanced within the workplace, and develop work environments to not just attract new talent, but to nurture staff while they work there.

This is partly due to the diversification of working models: the term ‘agile working’ is indicative of flexibility in more ways than one. Providing more options for our staff means we are capable of stimulating fitness, health and general mental wellbeing. This can mean anything from brighter spaces with bigger windows and open plan offices with room to move, to encouraging remote working at home or in cafés.

It also references the decision from employers and developers to locate leisure amenities in close proximity to office spaces, making sure that employees have improved access to gyms, entertainment, good food and green spaces, all of which can promote positivity and productivity at work. The challenge for employers is to create workplaces that slot easily into lives, accommodating family and home life, as well as entertainment and activities.

The changing attitude towards work as something that can be moulded to complement the other elements of life is evident in the London model, which is perhaps why the capital places as the healthiest place to work in the UK.

This is possibly where the rising influence of mental wellbeing as a determining factor comes into play, as London continues to lead by example as a hub for flexible working and high quality, accessible facilities for those that work there. Though it might be more polluted than the North East or Wales, the advanced transport options available and the popularity of cycling within the so-called ‘Smoke’ also suggest that there’s a subtler link between your commute and your wellbeing than exhaust fumes.

People are increasingly choosing to work closer to home, with rush hour traffic and crowded trains contributing to feelings of stress and dread from the moment alarm clocks sound in the morning. This is a new facet of working life that companies have to be more aware of, situating their offices in well-connected, convenient areas.

Bringing workplaces closer to homes and transport links is one improvement, but these changes still return to physical health as a priority for employers and employees alike. As people move closer to work, they might have more free time but still lack the motivation to use it as an opportunity for exercise or bettering their health.

This is where internal initiatives from companies are significant: they are the markers of responsible employers and are essential if we are to repair the divisions between work and wellbeing.

Some high profile examples of conscientious health and wellbeing programmes includes those promoted by Johnson & Johnson pharmaceuticals, as it implements stress management, smoking-cessation and weight loss programmes as part of its employee schemes to promote a positive attitude to health, while Virgin is also well known for its emphasis on exercise and healthy eating amongst employees.

Facebook has drawn attention to the importance of the workspace layout and its relation to work and leisure, as it recently announced the creation of a ‘one-mile corridor’, which encourages walking around to stretch your legs and share ideas.

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Here in the North West, our workspaces place in the middle of the employee health rankings. However, my prediction is that the area will move up the chart over the next few years, as place makers such as Birchwood Park, Manchester’s Spinningfields and MediaCityUK continue to provide workspace with quality amenities and open spaces.

At Birchwood Park we think companies should expect more than just a building and we work hard to deliver our ‘Expect More’ philosophy, but we also need to help motivate staff to do the rest for themselves. It isn’t all just heading for the gym or eating healthy food: our aim is to create a sociable, comfortable space that blurs the distinction between work and leisure.

Employers are tasked with removing anything that might obstruct a relationship between work and happiness. This means building a place in which people are happy with their role, but also their bodies, their minds and the community that surrounds them.

Jonathan Walsh is managing director at Birchwood Park

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