Buildings need People

An empty building doesn’t make money. It is also a waste of resources, will rapidly decay and probably attract crime and anti-social behaviour.

August 19, 2020

An empty building doesn’t make money. It is also a waste of resources, will rapidly decay and probably attract crime and anti-social behaviour.

But in real estate, it is easy to forget that humans, and our experience of buildings, is central to our entire industry and social purpose. But how do we put people at the heart of our thinking?

Enhance the human experience

We spend 90% of our time indoors and much of that time at our jobs.

Human experience is how an employee feels about their workplace. It is an emotional connection — not limited to the physical environment — that profoundly influences someone’s professional happiness, health, productivity, levels of absenteeism and turnover rates.

Our research in this area highlights the three main zones that leading companies need to address to provide the best experience for their workers: engagement, empowerment and fulfillment.

Leading companies are seeking to improve engagement amongst their workforces, and will introduce innovative workspaces, use workspace to foster an entrepreneurial spirit and adjust densities to improve employee effectiveness.

To deliver empowerment and hence drive change, they seek to: develop a culture of trust, kindness and initiative; they provide choices of workplaces to employees to improve performance and quality of life; and they ensure space for concentration, rejuvenation and physical activity.

And finally, to generate happiness and fulfilment amongst employees, they implement managerial approaches linked to recognition and personal learning and development; and incorporate spaces dedicated to health, wellbeing, relaxation and fun.

Given the contribution that the physical space makes to the human experience, it is clear that rooting out the traditional cost-minimising approach to corporate real estate is essential. We need to see our workspace instead as an investment – to enhance employee attraction, retention and productivity.

Make it real

One of the ways to bring experience-based thinking to life in physical reality is to design buildings with wellbeing at their core.

Apple’s tree-filled UFO-donut in Cupertino, California is an example of a building looking to engage its workforce in innovative thinking, with a layout that ‘forces’ people to walk outside the building into nature to get to where they want to go.

Landsec’s new headquarters, which is the first office building to achieve BREEAM Outstanding and WELL Silver, empowers employees by offering work settings including treadmill desks, collaboration spaces and acoustically sealed quiet working booths.

Derwent London’s White Collar Factory building helps to generate fulfilment by incorporating a space dedicated to health and wellbeing on its roof in the form of a running track and café which all tenants can use.

Measure the outcomes

Having used wellbeing principles to design a workplace with humans in mind, it’s very helpful to measure the actual impact on the human experience, and the business benefits. Some examples include measuring:

  • Talent attraction: The recruiting team can gather detailed feedback from new hires on the extent to which the workplace influenced their decision to join the company.
  • Serendipitous encounters: The ability of the building to create healthy social collisions via open floors, lower partitions, social areas, etc.
  • Employee satisfaction: Employee comfort with regards to temperature, lighting, noise and air quality.
  • Community mood: The use of community spaces to gauge the sense of vibrancy in an organisation.

Times are changing...

The traditional workplace is changing, and workplaces are becoming more human-centred. Becoming more human means putting our lived experiences at the centre of workplace design and operation. But being human also means complexity, diversity, mistakes, forgiveness, compassion, laughter and a whole range of emotions and contradictions. Buildings are the backdrop against which human dramas are played out and a supportive workplace is essential for employees to navigate the ups and downs of life. We need healthy buildings to thrive and buildings need us to prosper.

This article was published as part of “Transforming real estate: our views”, a digital magazine where our sustainability experts shed a light on how to navigate the current transformational path, giving you the tools and knowledge to ensure your business is future ready.