Creating places people want to be: key questions investors and landlords should be asking themselves

Beth Ambrose, Director, Upstream Sustainability Consultancy Team at JLL, explores what new practices and design measures will need to be integrated into the workplace to support wellbeing and productivity in the long-term.

We have witnessed a global crisis that is likely to drive a fundamental change in how we live and work. Times are therefore uncertain for property owners and occupiers, with some office-based companies pondering the long-term viability of mass home working, and developers of mixed-use buildings considering what the ‘healthy place of the future’ needs to look like. However, this rapidly emerging new world also presents significant opportunity. As companies are directed to prioritise their most valuable asset — their people – their reflections will lead to far better recognition of what employees as human beings need to be fulfilled and productive.

From a real estate perspective, our home, neighbourhood and workplace will need to accommodate the new priorities that have risen up the collective public agenda. All around the country, people have rediscovered a different pace of life, the importance of connection and community to their sense of wellbeing, and the value of outside green space and clean air. Poor work-life balance, polluted air, crowded commutes, dull and draining workplaces, all need to be left behind. Building owners, developers and planners will need to put wellbeing and resilience firmly front of mind in placemaking designs for new office, retail, residential and public space; owners of existing commercial and residential real estate will need to repurpose physical internal and external space to drive holistically healthy experiences to attract new and retain existing occupiers, and ultimately increase the value of their assets; as a driver for this, corporate occupiers also need to provide exciting places where they can showcase their brand and culture, inspire employees and enhance their wellbeing.

One key principle that has therefore been brought home to us during this pandemic, is that people are at the heart of property. So, the key questions that real estate investors, landlords or managers are asking are;

How do I ensure my workplaces are safe in the short-term and resilient and productive in the long-term?

What new practices and design measures will I need to include in the workplace to generate genuine wellbeing and productivity and how will I measure their success?

As a developer, how can I evolve my designs for a new mixed-use scheme to explicitly support resident and worker wellbeing?

Thinking of the workplace, whether as an office landlord or a corporate occupier, we expect smart organisations to double down on health and wellbeing and look particularly closely at the value of enhancing the wellbeing of people within their buildings and workplaces. Bear in mind that up to 90 per cent of the running costs of an office-based business relate to people – with operations and rent making up just 10-15 per cent. So, as a rough rule of thumb, improving employee wellbeing and productivity by 5 per cent easily covers a business’s real estate costs.

Whether you go down the route of WELL, Fitwel, RESET or another bespoke approach, all such rating standards with KPIs offer a structured way to assess and benchmark key facets of your spaces and operations – air quality, lighting, acoustics, biophilic design, activity levels, even social programmes.

They force you to gather the evidence-base and hold strategic conversations internally about where you want to invest to maximise value – whether that be in the physical bricks and mortar, and/or in programmes of employee or community support, all investment should ultimately be focused on improving the wellbeing and productivity of the building users, and communicating the outcomes.

Read more about delivering healthy and safe places to work and live, understanding the human impact of your real estate and future proofing your buildings with smart use technology in JLL’s new thought leadership report: Creating places people want to be. 

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