Workplace wellbeing depends on basics rather than high-end tech products

04 Sep 2019

Many progressive and conscious companies have been making great strides when it comes to their impact on the environment. From using local materials, reducing their emissions and opting for eco-friendly packaging to creating longer-lasting products that defy the throwaway consumerist culture that has occupied the last 50 years. But alongside these positive and progressive steps forward, too many companies are still not addressing the negative environmental conditions that persist inside their very own buildings – indoor environments that impact their employees considerably.

A new report published a few days ago by Future Workplace titled Future Workplace Wellness Study found that, for employees, air quality and lighting are the most important drivers of performance, happiness, and wellbeing, while fitness facilities and technology-based health tools were seen as the most trivial.

Following a near half a decade of Fortune 500 companies spilling cash over workplace wellbeing programmes such as meditation rooms, ping pong tables, free beer on Fridays and yoga lessons, what this new study shows is that the key to employee wellbeing – and in turn higher retention rates and better likelihood of getting employees – is much more basic than what they thought.

The real question though is why are employees so impacted by air quality and lighting? And the answer is simple: because those are the fundamental influencing factors on our energy levels, concentration, and sleep quality. It feels as though we are entering a new era of wellbeing awareness and with that, the technology that helps us is beginning to look differently. Instead of measuring how well or unwell we’ve slept, users are beginning to want feedback that is actionable – what are the main influencing factors on your sleep and how can you get the right amount of this influencing factor to improve it. According to the report, 1 in 3 employees say that access to comfortable light (intensity and colour) is important for their daily health.

That’s exactly where air quality and light come in. Employees are aware that poor air quality makes them sleepy and therefore without energy. Instead of stacking up on chia seed and matcha smoothies provided via some wellbeing programme at work, employees prefer to have air that is fresh in order to keep their energy levels high. And the same is applicable for light (which is one of the most important influencing factors on our sleep). Employers pour funds into wellbeing programmes and perks that help employees sleep better when really all they’d need to do is understand the quality of light in their workplace environments and optimise it to help their employees sleep better.

So before we go deeper down seemingly innovative wellbeing perks and programmes offered by employers, it’s time we realise that light and air are our basic and most important needs. And understanding how to best improve the light intake of employees is the first step.