Making a meaningful contribution to a company’s bottom line

by FM Media

What is the best way to make a meaningful contribution to a company’s bottom line in these economic times? DUNCAN YOUNG, sustainability manager at Lend Lease, says the answer is through investing in people and workplaces.

Can investment in people and workplaces really make a meaningful contribution to a company’s bottom line performance in these uncertain economic times? My answer is, emphatically, yes.
Social capital and skilled labour are the foundation of a successful, sustainable business. Commercial buildings provide the space for people to work at their most productive and are key to attracting and retaining top talent. As such, the benefits of investing in the workplace are numerous and well-documented.

With more than 80 percent of our lives spent indoors, health and well-being play a vital role in any thriving business. Research suggests the main benefits of natural light and clean air are psychological; it raises comfort levels and reduces stress, improving everything from productivity and physical health to mood and behaviour.
Plentiful fresh air supply not only reduces the spread of respiratory illness, but increases the alertness of employees. Workstations at our head offices are positioned near windows and we provide over 3800 plants, greatly improving indoor air quality and biophilia effects such as reduced blood pressure.
A fit and healthy workforce will also serve to reduce absenteeism. In fact, recent studies have shown that regular cyclists take fewer sick days than non-cyclists. Basic cycle facilities – bike racks, showers and changing rooms – are now commonplace at the office, but increasingly there is a focus on cycle groups operating awareness, training and ‘bike-buddy’ style services that match riders who live in the same location to share their best routes to work. Similarly Bike 2 Work schemes encourage staff to purchase discounted, tax-free bicycles.

To deepen staff engagement and pride in their offices, it is crucial that the workplace reflects the company’s values. Employees appreciate an environment that is stimulating, that fosters creativity and that encourages them to come together.
For example, well-positioned internal stairs encourage staff to flow through the building, large breakout spaces promote collaboration and celebration, and quiet spaces allow staff to take time out from their busy day. The buildings we work in need to be flexible enough to support the variety of different activities found in the modern working day.
Introducing an element of fun to the workplace can also help nurture employee engagement. At the Lend Lease headquarters we recently launched the ‘Genius Bar’ to provide IT support. Frustrated staff bring their technological queries (about laptops, iPads and phones, for instance) to the weekly lunchtime sessions. Tellingly, the solutions are often arrived at via a collaborative effort and not just by the IT team.

Additionally, we are seeing that companies that focus on their people are yielding superior stock market returns. Publicly traded companies in the 100 Best Companies – a list based on surveys of staff satisfaction – consistently outperform major stock indices by a factor of three.

The initiatives I have discussed, although small in nature, have a big impact on engagement, health, well-being and productivity. Those companies that flourish do so by attracting, retaining and developing the best talent. And, the best place to start is the workplace.

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