Charter Hall’s NATALIE DEVLIN explores the organisation’s journey to WELL Certification and what other office landlords can learn from the process.
The environments we live and work in directly impact our well-being. Providing an environment that positively impacts our people and tenant customers is a priority for us at Charter Hall, as it is for many Australian workplaces.
Putting the human experience first
NABERS and Green Star ratings have been goals for Australia’s built environment for some time now, but have been traditionally focused on operations and sustainability. A few years ago, the International WELL Building Institute launched the WELL Building Standard to focus on people. It looks at how nutrition, fitness, mental health, water, clean air and lighting can improve the workplace experience from a human-centric, tenant perspective.
Charter Hall’s journey
It was an important signal – but one that didn’t surprise us. In effect, the standard formalised what Charter Hall and others were already doing in the workplace health and well-being space.
Our own journey towards greater wellness started six years ago with putting people first and supporting their well-being through technology, innovative design, company policies and community programs.
We began with a cultural shift to empower people through trust and accountability to take greater control of their well-being. We encouraged them to make choices on how we delivered what was needed. But we didn’t stop there. We provided them with new ways of working, using space, policy and tools to support flexibility and mobility. We also recognised that people have responsibilities both in and outside of work and offered them support across all facets of their lives.
From there, we looked at ways to take wellness wider. For instance, we formalised our wellness focus through WELL Certification of our workplaces and buildings. This points-based system measures up to 100 aspects of wellness in any new workplace design, from a focus on mental health, to thermal comfort, connection to community, nourishment and use of natural materials. To date, Charter Hall’s Perth and Melbourne offers have received silver WELL Certification and we are targeting gold certification for our Brisbane and Melbourne offices this year.
We also extend wellness to a broader set of Charter Hall office assets through the WELL Portfolio. By shifting the focus from individual spaces to an entire asset class, we are not only able to support our people but also provide a platform for tenant customers to target their own WELL Certification.
Finally, we connected with the community through sharing initiatives and spaces to support community connection.
So what are the learnings here? How can other office landlords create the most ideal conditions for their tenants and employees to thrive? Firstly, by recognising that wellness is not just about how we work, but also how people eat, travel, feel and connect. Secondly, by understanding that the greatest benefits will come from joining forces with others.
We believe it’s up to developers and landlords to not only improve the base environment for a healthy workplace, but also supports shifts in the culture among office building communities to deliver the benefits of WELL long-term. As a sector, owners and managers of office buildings partner with tenants to make choices that will help their people thrive and facilitate the development of communities to drive these wellness initiatives.
Recently, the WELL Institute started rolling out a WELL Community Standard as a separate accreditation to encourage greater interaction between buildings and the wider neighbourhood. For Charter Hall, this community focus currently involves initiatives like free yoga classes, lunchtime talks by well-being experts, coffee cup recycling points and a charity donation program for old furniture and more. Together, such activities help cultivate a culture among tenants to be mindful of their impacts on people and the environment.
If Australian companies really want to help create better futures for their workforce, then they need to go further than they have gone in the past. Right now, there is a fabulous opportunity for landlords, businesses and building managers to do more together; to listen deeply to what tenants need and then join forces to work through how they can have an impact on well-being. By taking up this opportunity, they can continue to shape the way a definitive part of the future of business, the ways organisations create and operate within workplaces that do their people good.
Natalie Devlin is the chief experience officer at Charter Hall.