The early months of the year are traditionally the time when people embark on diets or detoxes with the aim of looking, feeling and performing better. Few people, however, consider how the external environment contributes to their overall feeling of wellbeing.
“There is a wealth of research that shows that being active and feeling healthy is critical to happiness and productivity,” says Matt Webster. As British Land’s Head of Wellbeing and Futureproofing, he is tasked with understanding how the workplace affects happiness, health and productivity.
This doesn’t just refer to the office you work in; contemporary businesses don’t see an office with a desk, a computer and a phone as the sole place of work. The term ‘workspace’ also encompasses the areas around the office, green spaces, coffee shops, softer collaborative areas, terraces and so on, with technology enabling people to seamlessly move between them.
Nature boosts productivity
At British Land’s three major offices campuses in London – Broadgate, Regent’s Place and Paddington Central – we curate environments that support the health, happiness and productivity of the people who work and spend time there.
Paddington Central in particular is the focus for a number of wellbeing initiatives that are being piloted as we continue to explore the connection between wellbeing and productivity, drawing on research into public health, neuroscience, behavioural economics and environmental psychology.
Webster cites examples such as the introduction of a rooftop basketball court at 4 Kingdom Street, which is currently under construction; ‘floating yoga’ classes on canal barges; and the creation of an outdoors games area where people can play table tennis and other sports.
“There is a wealth of research that shows that being active and feeling healthy is critical to happiness and productivity”
Nature is another important element in the mix. “We understand that nature boosts productivity: just having a view of trees or a park from a work or study space reduces stress and improves mental performance,” Webster explains.
Paddington Central is located by the canal, just minutes from Little Venice, and some of the public spaces have been opened up so that people have more interaction with the water, which is known to have a calming effect. Another radical initiative involves transforming a road running through the campus into a woodland garden, comprising hundreds of trees and plants, linking the office buildings.
This not only ensures that people at Paddington Central are surrounded by nature, it also creates a series of new social spaces. “Social relationships are the most powerful driver of human health and wellbeing,” Webster adds, “and we know that people prefer places that encourage surprise encounters and interactions.”
Thus the new woodland walkway includes four pocket parks, each with outdoor seating and USB charging points to enable people to work effectively. A retail unit at the campus has also been converted into a ‘snug’ where cushions, soft furnishings and a mock open fire encourage people to stop by and relax.
A sense of belonging
“Our approach to wellbeing also recognises that there is a strong correlation between happiness, social trust, and a sense of belonging to a place or a community,” says Webster.
At Paddington Central, we have been careful to embrace the area’s rich history across the campus. For example, last summer saw the installation of a new piece of public art celebrating the life of Alan Turing, one of Paddington’s most famous sons. This has been well received and helps people working at the campus build a sense of attachment to the area. Small gestures – such as greeting people by name in the morning or offering assistance – are extremely valuable in making people feel part of a community at Paddington.
“These initiatives are informing how we evolve our other London campuses to support wellbeing,” Webster concludes. “Businesses know that happy and healthy employees are more productive and, as a result, we are seeing companies place a premium on locations that are aligned with modern lifestyles and expectations.
“We expect this trend to continue as the understanding grows that it is not just what you put in your body, it is also what you put your body in, that has a positive effect.”
HAPPINESS, HEALTH, PADDINGTON CENTRAL, PRODUCTIVITY, WELLBEING