The notion of wellness in the workplace has gained increasing publicity in recent times. From comprehensive wellness programs to incorporating wellbeing-enhancing features into building design, businesses and employees alike appear to be seeing the benefits. But where has this trend come from, and what does the future hold for wellness 


The corporate wellness program is a concept that is likely to have evoked a confused reaction 20 years ago. But today, encouraging good health and wellbeing in the workplace is something that more and more employees are expecting.

Wellness programs commonly feature a mix of medical related services, such as health screenings, and emotional, mental and financial health provisions. Many programs have integrated with online platforms to allow employees access to health information at all times.

In an increasingly mobile jobs market, non-financial perks are an important differentiator to employees. Whether consciously or not, employees are therefore often swayed by wellness offerings, from a simple gym membership to a comprehensive package of wellbeing benefits.

This can influence success in both employee acquisition and retention, as companies create a caring and comfortable environment for their workers.

On the flip side, businesses are reported to have seen a 300% return on investment from their wellness program efforts. This is in addition to reductions in absenteeism, staff turnover and employee stress.


The role of the workplace building in promoting wellness is just a small part of the average corporate program, which usually highlights access to the above-mentioned services as its core offering.

However, this previously understated role is rising more to the surface as developers, landlords and employers better understand the benefits of healthy building design.

Wellness in building design is also evolving from building codes, particularly in those related to sustainable and resilient design.

This continues to be spearheaded in the USA, where movements such as active design and the WELL Building Standard are receiving a lot of attention.

For the first time, we now have an international standard for the quality of the indoor environment, developed by the International WELL Building Institute.

The standard addresses multiple factors, such as air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

Surprisingly, physical aspects such as indoor air quality have not previously had any strict associated legislation. Therefore, to see a standard that includes air, nourishment and emotional wellbeing as part of its main criteria is a huge step forward.

The workplace world is now being educated by buildings that have been awarded the WELL certification, thus further proliferating how wellness can be incorporated to the physical corporate space.

London’s 22 Bishopsgate is the first building in the UK to be registered for the Well Building Standard (WELL certification).

In the USA, the Centre for Active Design (CfAD) is another body that is actively driving the wellness by design approach. A non-profit organisation, the CfAD uses design to encourage physical, mental, and social health in buildings.

Its work with the New York City government in 2010 resulted in the very first Active Design Guidelines for public buildings and those that receive public money, including new affordable housing.

On a global level, Fitwel is leading the way by encouraging improvements in building design and operations to support individual and community health.

Fitwel is already making waves across the world, with 90 projects having submitted for certification in the US, Canada, and the UK. Another 600 projects are committed for 2018.


Any reticence towards adopting wellness into building design is likely to come down to who bears the cost of it. In older buildings where businesses have been established for some time, the cost vs benefit dilemma is commonplace.

However, others are playing their part in ensuring the UK keeps up with developments in building-integrated wellness.

There are a growing number of case studies that show developers and architects who are championing wellness in building design.

Indeed, we only need to read further into this issue of The Occupier to learn about Derwent London, a developer that is differentiating its offering through providing wellness by design.

New developments such as White Collar Factory in Old Street are shining examples of buildings that intrinsically encourage and facilitate employee wellbeing.

In the case of existing tenanted buildings, landlords are beginning to work with occupiers to ensure changes can be made.

As with the wellness programs mentioned above, the reasons for incorporating wellness into building design comes down to business benefits.

As employees become savvier and aware of what’ s available in the jobs market, many are specifically seeking modern workplaces with healthy lifestyle related perks.

To attract good talent, businesses therefore need to view the physical space as a differentiator and invest accordingly.


It appears that workplace wellness will continue to rise up the corporate agenda in 2018.

Wellness programs are continuing to evolve, with aspects such as learning and development classes, employee recognition and workplace design all predicted to take further precedence.

With developers, architects and landlords beginning to take wellbeing in the workplace seriously, like it or loathe it, you can expect to hear a lot more about workplace wellness from here on in.

Claire-Louise Taljaard

Head of Marketing |
DeVono Cresa

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Read more like this in the full issue of The Occupier Q1 2018.