Building a case for health and well-being in Manchester’s booming property sector

Manchester’s property market is thriving, but as we watch developments pop up all over the city, is the property sector doing enough to safeguard the wellness of its inhabitants?

As marketing experts with a whole host of clients in the property and construction sector, this is the question that formed the basis of our inaugural BIG Conversation panel event last week. Nicola Woods of Workplace Consultancy OBI, Toby Sproll, Director of Retail, Amenity and Community at Bruntwood, Robert Hopkins, Regional Director at AHR and Lindsay George, Psychotherapist and Wellbeing Expert, provided some fascinating insights for more than 60 movers and shakers in the Manchester business community.

“The workplace has changed massively,” pointed out Nicola. “Happiness now comes above salary and status for many – and people are looking for a workplace in which they can thrive.”

But what does that mean for employers? For Bruntwood’s Toby Sproll, it all comes down to trust and technology. He said: “Technology offers a much more flexible approach to work and if employees are trusted to work remotely, then the focus is on productivity over presenteeism, which is much more effective for all involved.”

AHR’s Robert Hopkins explained exactly how this can translate into the built environment and directed us to the ‘The Well Standard’ – an accreditation for buildings based entirely around health and wellbeing. He talked about the innovative work AHR is doing with the Royal College of Physicians in Liverpool to achieve a platinum accreditation through hugely innovative means – even incorporating a living medicinal garden into the design!

However, as psychotherapist Lindsay George pointed out, not all businesses have the budgets, space or time to invest in such changes to their working environment. She recommends that we all make time to “check in” with ourselves regularly to gauge how we are feeling on a scale of 1 to 10, saying that this simple step can really help to identify what issues might be affecting our wellbeing, so we can do something to address it.

But what steps can employers take to move in the right direction, especially when it comes to the office environment?

Our panel agreed that basic things such as natural light, fresh air, plants and access to water were of huge importance to productivity and an overall feeling of wellbeing.

“In the UK, we spend 90% of our time inside,” advised Robert. “Nature and space nourish the mind, so workplaces need to reflect the outdoors as much as possible.”

Nicola recommended good quality breakout areas where staff can socialise and eat, while Toby praised open, collaborative spaces, but pointed out that this won’t necessarily work for everyone. Rob agreed: “We need to move away from uniform. Everybody is different and needs to be respected as such.”

Our panel agreed that as well as creating the right physical environment, it is important to encourage a culture of balance within the workplace. As Lindsay pointed out, “In France, it’s illegal to make business calls after 6pm. People are given permission to respect their home and family life.”  This shows that while developers can go a long way to supporting employee wellbeing, the attitude of management is still a game-changer.

It was unanimous that although we are heading in the right direction when it comes to encouraging wellness, there is more work to be done. Toby concluded: “There is a shift happening in the UK: we are on the crest of a wave and it feels like we could start driving positive change when it comes to health and wellbeing.”

A huge thank you our panellists for their fantastic insights and to everyone who joined us at our first ever BIG Conversation event.  If you would like to find out more about BIG Partnership and our experience in the property and construction sector, please do get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.