‘Wellness’ has become an established part of the corporate agenda in the past couple of years, which is hardly surprising when 55 per cent of business overheads are staffing costs and many companies are engaged in an increasingly fraught battle to attract and retain top talent.
Office workers overall, however, remain largely dissatisfied with their environment: 31 per cent of those in Savills What Workers Wants survey said that they thought their office has a negative impact on their physical health, with 28 per cent also saying that it harms their mental health.
An extrapolation of this is that millions of office workers are unhealthy or discontent, which is surely part of why the UK’s productivity is stuck in the doldrums and why in 2017 it is approximately 20 per cent lower than it was in 2008 before the financial crisis. After all, staff don’t tend to go above and beyond and devote all their efforts to working hard if they’re spending most of their day feeling fundamentally unhappy.
Companies of all sizes are aware of this and are on the case, exploring how they can keep their staff well and content, and thereby increase their engagement and help the bottom line. But the problem is that wellness is often costly. While some improvements, such as encouraging staff to take their full lunch hour and using it to exercise or decompress carry minimal cost, finding extra office space for staff relaxation or quiet areas or adapting lighting or heating systems so each worker has autonomy over their desk area doesn’t come cheap. How can money therefore be found in the budget for wellness?
We believe the answer to the conundrum could possibly lie in artificial intelligence (AI). We’re not thinking in terms of robots replacing workers (I doubt that many employees will be overcome with an overwhelming sense of wellbeing when presented with a P45 and told that their role is being automated), but the way that AI is increasingly being used to streamline processes and making businesses more efficient.
With such efficiencies leading to increases in margins, by automating processes and systems the resources saved can therefore be used to off-set investment into wellness improvements to the benefit of staff.
Read more: UK Cross Sector Outlook