Wellness as a catalyst to improve workplace culture
Beiersdorf, the brand owners of NIVEA and Elastoplast, recently achieved the coveted WELL Certification from the International WELL Building Institute, for the refurbishment of their Head Office in a 30-year-old building in North Ryde.
WELL Building Standard is the leading tool for advancing health and wellbeing of occupants in buildings and is recognised globally.
Northrop’s Buildings Performance and Wellness Lead, Pratik Shah assisted with the project as a WELL Accredited Professional from conception through to certification.
Through their journey, Beiersdorf has demonstrated that:
- Existing workplaces and buildings can achieve WELL Certification;
- Off-the-shelf products can help achieve WELL requirements and minimise costs; and,
- Wellness interventions can improve the financial bottom-line of a business, through improved staff engagement and building a positive workplace culture.
A massive hailstorm in 2015 resulted in the collapse of Beiersdorf’s Huntingwood Warehouse. This presented an opportunity to expand their existing space in North Ryde to house Beiersdorf’s entire Head Office team, some of whom were previously located at Huntingwood.
In addition, they sought to improve employee wellbeing, engagement, innovation, communication and sustainability, within a key objective of the project: one workplace, one culture, under one roof.
Due to the existing equipment and plant, there were issues surrounding the indoor air quality, thermal comfort and acoustic comfort. These issues were addressed by the different disciplines and the best solution implemented.
For instance, the mechanical equipment did not have to be upgraded or replaced. A review found that the fans in the air handling system could accommodate higher-efficiency filter resistance (that can capture finer particulates and pollens).
Another challenge was designing the Circadian Lighting system - lighting that supports sleep-awake circadian rhythms in the occupants. This was addressed by selecting an off-the-shelf product that theoretically demonstrated compliance with the required vertical lux levels (equivalent melanopic lux in WELL Building Standard v1). After careful layout and modelling by the lighting supplier, it was deemed suitable.
Beiersdorf’s NIVEA brand has several patents associated with the fragrances in its products. This turned out to be a major concern with regards to fragrance-free (fragrances are an irritant in the respiratory system) hand wash liquid soap requirements for WELL Certification. Ultimately, after a long search, a fragrance-free WELL-compliant product, from another manufacturer, was installed in the workplace.
One of the innovations that resulted out of the WELL Certification, was the procurement of a cleaning service that do not use chemicals. Cleaning is conducted through Stabilised Aqueous Ozone (SAO), which is produced on-site and has proven properties to kill viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. And with no odour, it does not affect the indoor air quality and is also safe for the cleaning staff.
Other initiatives include Biophilic (human’s innate desire to be surrounded by nature and other life forms) workplace design principles, healthy food and beverage containing vending machine and solar photovoltaic array on the roof of the building.
Beiersdorf conducted a survey pre and post refurbishment finding that staff thoroughly welcomed the new workplace with highquality wellness initiatives. Whilst the post refurbishment scores have improved overall, the standouts were for Ideation and Creative Thinking (improved over 14 times as compared to before), Collaboration (over 10 times), Health and Wellbeing (almost tripled) and Team Spirit (doubled), leading to an overall culture of positive energy, innovation and inspiration.
Beiersdorf deployed a Gallup study on employee engagement rates and have found that the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees have improved from 5.56 : 1 in 2015 to 8 : 1 in 2018, which is remarkable when compared to the Australian average of 1 : 1.
High engagement rates not only correlate to a better perceived productivity, but also increased employee retention, which significantly improves the financial bottomline of a business.
Achieving WELL has not only delivered a great workplace for Beiersdorf but also provided value to the business.
Beiersdorf has paved the way for workplaces in existing buildings to pursue WELL Certifications. Additionally, they have demonstrated that it’s possible to achieve WELL in businesses outside of the property and construction sector – a first as far as we know.
At a time when the value of the workplace is increasingly questioned, engaging in a WELL Certification process could become enormously important to many organisations seeking to attract staff back to their offices to foster workplace culture!
First published in Consulting Matters October 2020 – cover story https://issuu.com/consultingmatters/docs/2020_oct_consulting_matters