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The Battle for Talent: Workplace Wellness Is the Gamechanger

Rendering of the cafeteria and collaboration space with two floor atrium.
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Right now, the country is on the cusp of a unique shift. The United States labor force is projecting that, compared to recent decades, the population will be slow growing, older and more diverse over the next few years. As a result, the labor force is expected to develop slowly at an annual rate of just 0.5 percent through 2024. In December alone, CNBC reported that job openings jumped 2.4 percent to reach a record high of 7.3 million. Despite the increase in job openings, the unemployment rate remains below 4 percent meaning, now more than ever, it is crucial for businesses to invest in attracting the talent they need.

Recently, with the help of our in-house sustainability team, I wrote an article detailing how businesses are optimizing wellbeing in the workplace to improve employee satisfaction. As wellness in the workplace continues to gain momentum across multiple generations, it is also becoming a driver for attracting and retaining talent.

Over the last 10 years, as harmful building materials, chemicals and paint have become heavily regulated, green-focused architecture has evolved to be the basic standard for most businesses and contractors. Though most workplaces employ sustainable practices to be good stewards of the earth, many organizations in the United States fail to consider the health and wellness of those who occupy the building. It’s critical that companies not only have an accurate understanding of employee wellness and its benefits, but also the overwhelming affect it has on attracting talent.

According to the Global Wellness Institute, newer generations to the workforce are placing increasing emphasis on workplace health and wellness during the job search that goes beyond simply just employer supplied benefits. In turn, long-serving generations, the decision makers, have become advocates for workplace wellness as they continue to understand how it can produce healthier and ultimately happier employees.

With a focus on improving the quality of people’s lives, a new standard emerging within the workplace is WELL Building (WELL). Through policies and changes to the indoor environment, WELL enhances the corporate workplace to increase employee wellbeing, productivity and satisfaction. With recruitment competition, demonstrating a people-first focus can set your company apart to attract and retain talent. An example of this can be seen in our client Secura Insurance, who is incorporating WELL features into their new corporate headquarters.

From initial conversations with leadership, it was clear that Secura was committed to designing their new office around sustainability and wellbeing. Afterall, this closely aligned to their culture and dedication to their workforce of supporting their employee’s happiness and well-being. Happy Employees = Happy Customers. To underscore their dedication to this goal, the company is pursuing WELL certification by including features that address mind, comfort, fitness, light, nourishment, water and air to provide employee choice.

Looking through the lens of the employees’ health and comfort, Secura implemented purposeful design decisions that will have positive impacts on the mental and physical health of their employees. Several aspects of sustainable design, including unobstructed views to nature and outdoor access and seating, aid in creating a healthy environment and increased employee satisfaction. Providing ample daylight throughout the office, glass office fronts are adjustable with circadian lighting to control glare and increase productivity.

Recruiting top talent can be challenging but understanding your organization’s values will help attract the best talent for your culture. Prospects perceive an identity about a company from just a few clicks and, if their impression doesn’t align with the physical office environment, they won’t perceive a good fit or sense of trust and will likely move on. A lack of authenticity between an online presence and the physical environment creates uncertainty about a company’s sincerity and value for their employees.

Times have changed. The generations entering the workforce have much different expectations compared to that of 25 years ago. For instance, Generation Z and beyond – those born after 1995 – have never experienced a world without the internet, which has shaped their everyday experiences and expectations. According to a Monster poll, 9 out of 10 Gen-Zers said technology would impact their decision to work for a company. Besides its ability to keep us connected, technology has become a necessity as it allows us to be more aware about the world, our communities, where we live and work, and our health. With increasing wellness apps and healthy social media influencers, technology has also revolutionized how many people, especially Gen Z, think and monitor their health and wellness. As these perceptions and ways of interacting with the world carry over into Gen Z’s careers, companies must keep this shift in mind when looking to attract the best talent.

As EUA remains committed to creating sustainable and healthier buildings, and empowering clients to make decisions that will positively impact their workplace and the community, what changes and trends would support wellness in your workplace? Let me know in the comments on my LinkedIn.

Eric Romano, AIA, EIT, LEED AP
Workplace Studio Director : Principal

Eric is EUA's Workplace Studio Director and a Principal in the Milwaukee office. He provides resources to support his team members and applies his expertise by giving feedback on projects throughout the Workplace studio.