Harbour84 on…Being well at work

20th April 2019

In today’s hyper-competitive market, where we are ‘always on’ and connected and the demands of work often stretch beyond the traditional ‘9-5’, workplace stress is ever more prevalent. As Jeffrey Pfeffer wrote recently in an article for McKinsey “workplace stress…costs US employers $200 billion a year”. Given this figure we cannot help but be surprised that there is any question at all about the return on investment (ROI) in having a happy and healthy workforce. After all, happy people are more engaged, more productive and both mentally and physically healthier. 

Looking at the statistics for the business travel community and the picture gets even starker. Business Traveller online reported the results of a survey in 2017 in which 36% of individuals surveyed felt that work-related travel makes them more stressed than normal. A World Bank study referenced by Harvard Business Review in 2018 found that 75% of World Bank staff and consultants surveyed reported high or very high stress related to business travel. Inability to exercise, eating unhealthily, loneliness, and long hours were amongst the factors contributing to a deterioration in mental and physical health ‘on the road’. 

It is no wonder then that to counterbalance the rising costs of an unhappy workforce there is a growing trend toward ‘workplace wellness’ in many organisations.  Attention is not only being given to how to better design jobs, but also how to provide workspaces that offer an engaging employee experience and positively contribute to employees being happy and healthy at work. But often these policies can only extend to the physical boundaries of the organisation – overlooking business travellers, who are often left to fend for themselves when away from HQ.  

Increasingly however, there are solutions. From workplace wellness training programs specifically tailored to business travellers, to workspaces and facilities accessible on demand to enable mobile corporate employees to find some balance between their personal needs, and the demands of the road, organisations are waking up to the fact that a large tranche of their workforce have health, wellness and workspace needs beyond HQ.   

When it comes to innovating with workspace, the coworking and ‘space as a service’ industry is leaps and bounds ahead of many corporate organisations.  This is perhaps not surprising given the space itself IS the product and to attract and retain members they need to do more than just provide a desk and some coffee. Given that these spaces are often designed with the more transient and flexible worker in mind, it is only logical they they can and should provide the business travel community a welcome respite from the hotel lobby and crowded coffeeshop!  

At a recent coworking conference in the UK, much was said about the research being conducted by organisations like The International WELL Building Institute showing that productivity and happiness in a space can be positively impacted through things like air quality, noise, kinetics (simply the ability to get up and move around) and having plants nearby or access to nature (known as biophilia). Coworking and ‘space as a service’ providers are taking this new understanding of how we interact with the space around us and running with it!  

For example, Kwerk, a Paris based coworking centre has coined the term ‘wellworking’ with its therapeutic workstations with ergonomically designed desks and chairs, a specially designed wellness programme with an on-site psychologist, and an immersive design that ‘awakens the senses’. Uncommon, a London based coworking company has wall to wall plants in its spaces, with biophilia a core tenet of its ethos and ‘vibe’. Both of these spaces, and many more, cater not just to the need for a place to work, but also for the physical and emotional wellbeing of the individual while he or she is working there.  

The appearance of these spaces and the broader debate on workplace wellness coincides with a mindset shift in how we work, where we work and when we work. Not only are employees placing more importance on their physical and mental wellbeing, but as they are exposed to more different environments in their personal and working lives, they become more attuned to what they need on the road in order to be productive, healthy, and happy.  

With greater opportunity than ever to personalise our lifestyle choices, it is natural we wish to extend this freedom of choice to our working lives. If we can better understand and capture the subjective value of workplace wellness to the mobile employee this could herald the start of a new relationship between worker and workspace. A more bespoke relationship with happiness and wellbeing at its core, and one that supports all individuals to do their best work, anytime, anywhere.  

Harbour84 is an online platform to connect business travellers and mobile corporate workers with workspaces that can help them be their best. Curation is key to our success. We carefully select spaces that offer connectivity, community and comfort based on the belief that workplace wellbeing and productivity go hand in hand. We then enable our customers to discover the workspaces they are looking for in a quick, simple and easy way