GN13.2: Health & wellbeing opportunities

Guidance Note Purpose 

The purpose of this Guidance Note is to provide asset managers, property managers and facilities managers with information about the importance of health and wellbeing, and how health and wellbeing opportunities can be integrated into real estate.  

Context 

The real estate sector has matured in recent years by building on the existing focus on health and safety to consider the broader range of physical and mental health issues included within health and wellbeing. 

The World Health Organisation defines health and wellbeing as, ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’1 

Property management is responding to the increasing interest in health and wellbeing with a range of specialisms.  These include, for example, enhanced cleaning regimes, indoor air quality testing and occupier engagement programs. 

As real estate navigates towards post-Covid-19 re-occupancy, real estate has a major role to play in supporting the operation of space that is safe and healthy from a mental and physical wellbeing perspective. 

Post-pandemic recovery provides a great opportunity to shape assets to provide better indoor environment for occupants and bringing nature into our spaces. It further enables prevention, preparedness and resilience in relation to future health issues through provision of appropriate air circulation and ventilation. 

Importance 

The built environment can positively and negatively influence the health and wellbeing of its occupiers.  Positive physical and mental health can contribute towards low levels of absence and reduced presenteeism. This, in turn, can contribute towards increased productivity for occupiers and, in turn, greater value for asset managers.   

Regulatory 

While a range of regulatory requirements address health and safety issues, for example, inspecting air conditioning assets and testing of water systems, there are no specific legal requirements specifically reating to health and wellbeing.  

Increasingly, however, local authorities and planning policies provide a focus on health and wellbeing within the built environment. For example, The London Plan includes a focus on addressing health inequalities and wellbeing in new developments. 

Financial 

Poor mental health is estimated to costs UK employers more than £30 billion a year through lost production, recruitment and absence.2 Improving health and wellbeing has the potential to make a positive financial contribution for occupiers through a reduction in the direct, and indirect, costs of absence and presenteeism.  

In turn, properties with strong health and well-being credentials also have potential to attract greater value.  In challenging times such as during the Covid-19 pandemic, properties with positive health and wellbeing attributes can also better retain value.  

Engagement and reputation 

Organisations and their employees are increasingly aware of the influence that the built environment can have on their physical and mental health.  In turn, they are demanding enhanced health and wellbeing performance through the provision of property features and workplace initiatives. 

The growing importance of health and well-being in the property market is reflected in the emergence of ratings and certifications, such as WELL and Fitwel, for example.  These accreditations set out a number of health impact areas against which applicants rate their property. 

In 2020, both WELL and Fitwel launched new modules in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Both are aimed at demonstrating building safety in relation to viral transmission and generating occupiers’ trust that their workplace is a safe place.  

Responsibilities & Interests

The table below summarises the key activities associated in identifying health and wellbeing opportunities, and highlights where asset managers, property managers and facilities managers are likely to have a responsibility or specific interest. 

  • AM - Asset Manager
  • PM - Property Manager
  • FM - Facilities Manager

Step 1: Gap analysis and review 

Stakeholder:

Step 2: Select health and wellbeing improvements 

Stakeholder:

Step 3: Consider funding options 

Stakeholder:

Step 4: Engage and monitor 

Stakeholder:

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How to

Intro

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While an asset manager will maintain a general interest in the health and wellbeing performance of a property, and will be directly involved in investment decisions, and the process of co-ordinating health and wellbeing improvements is coordinated by the property manager, with input from the facilities manager. 

Developing and implementing a strategy to improve health and wellbeing involves the following steps: 

Step 1: Gap analysis and review

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If a property is already operational, it may be beneficial to undertake a health and well-being audit.  This will establish existing health and wellbeing credentials, the benefit they provide and whether they will form part of a revised strategy.  It is also important to undertake an occupier survey, and potentially a wider building user survey, to establish the health and wellbeing requirements and aspiration of different stakeholder groups. 

It is important to engage with the asset manager and occupiers to consider potential certification of the property across the range of health and wellbeing rating and certification schemes, or, as is often the case, wellbeing ‘ready’ rather than going down the route of full certification. 

Relevant certification schemes include: 

  • WELL. 
  • Fitwel. 
  • Reset. 

There are a number of frameworks available which provide guidelines for project teams if they wish to embed the principles of wellbeing, including: 

  • BCO Wellness Matters. 
  • UKGBC and WGBC frameworks. 
  • BRE and BREEAM requirements. 

Covid-19 related frameworks and certification include: 

  • Strategies from the Well Building Standard to support in the fight against Covid-19. 
  • Research on action building health for all in the face of Covid-19. 
  • BCO Thoughts on office design and operation after Covid-19. 

Step 2: Select health and wellbeing improvements

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There are a range of ways to improve the health and wellbeing performance of a property.  This may involve altering a property’s base build structure, its ongoing operations or how the property manager interacts with the building occupiers and its local community. 

Some examples include:  

  • Base build design:  Biophilic design to improve air quality, increasing productivity and reducing stress.   
  • Ongoing operations.  Continuous air quality monitoring and reporting to ensure optimum air quality for health and productivity.  
  • Occupier engagement:  Social events or fitness clubs for occupiers to increase social interactions and create a sense of belonging whilst also improving physical and mental health.  
  • Local community:  Supporting local businesses or charities to give back to the areas in which they work and operate to contribute towards a fulfilling sense of community.  

The shape of a health and well-being strategy should be informed by the outcomes from health and wellbeing audits and surveys.  This may be complemented by technical consultants who can: 

  • Advise on the selection of initiatives and their implementation. 
  • Carry our remediation works. 
  • Produce policy and guidelines for building operations. 
  • Gather and submit the evidence and the assessment for certification, if required. 

Step 3: Consider funding options

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As health and well-being strategies can take many forms and incur a range of costs, it is important to establish how a health and well-being strategy will be funded.  This is likely to involves be a mix of funding sources, for example part-asset manager, part-service charge, if leases allow. 

Funding options will change depending on the stage in the building life cycle. For example, if the building is under construction or being refurbished then initiatives are more likely to be directly funded by the asset manager. 

Step 4: Engage and monitor

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Engaging occupiers is central in achieving the benefits relating to health and wellbeing.  It is important that occupiers and their employees are aware of the health and wellbeing features and workplace initiatives available at a property.  This will enable them to: 

  • Participate and make is of these health and wellbeing resources. 
  • Recognise the health and wellbeing commitment made by their employer and the asset manager. 

There are a range of methods that can be used to engage occupiers.  This may include occupier engagement forums as well as various communication channels such as posters, screens and, where relevant, pop-up booths and awareness seminars or case study publications. 

It is also important to provide occupiers with training on health and wellbeing features and workplace initiatives.  For example, the use of defibrillators or the safe and effective use of fitness equipment. 

Regular monitoring, including the development of metrics to measure the take up and impact of health and wellbeing initiatives, enables asset and property managers, and occupiers, to evaluate the ongoing suitability.  This should include a post-occupancy evaluation as part of securing feedback over the longer term.  

Related Guidance Notes 

The following Guidance Notes contain related information: 

Additional Resources