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With wellbeing becoming an issue more and more talked about also in the workplace, we were wondering:

Is it ok to not agree that your staff should have their wellbeing supported?

Our Design & Sustainability Director, Elina Grigoriou, has put her thoughts on (digital) paper:

It IS ok to not agree that your staff should have their wellbeing supported!

Yes you read correctly. It is ok if senior staff do not rush to the table to offer all the cushioning and perks they did not receive themselves when they were at the same place earlier on in their careers. Controversial perhaps but no less true for what they actually think. Does that touch something in you too? When someone gets something you never got, they have an easier ride and still get the glory. I admit I am familiar with this and so could relate to the following perspective seen frequently.

I was introduced to a senior industry figure at a European property conference last year. I was introduced to him as the keynote speaker talking about wellbeing in interiors; he asked me if I honestly believed wellbeing mattered and, between us now, was it really that important?! You can imagine my reaction and please feel free to laugh at my predicament at the time. I’m not known to let a solid opportunity for debate go past me, so after the initial surprise, I rolled my metaphorical sleeves up and we had a fabulous conversation over the next hour and made a new friend!

It was a conversation – and I highlight this as a very important detail; it was not a defensive, argument-rich, standoff. It is very rare to find people who will honestly and openly share their true view and feelings about something new or about your own proposals and allow deep insight of why they may not support it fully. A conversation allows us to step back and see the knowledge not yet available to us; it allows visibility of a bigger picture and to gain strength from it to improve situations for all concerned.

So back to the conversation: making my case for physical discomfort was not a difficult thing as, with many conference spaces and hotels around the world, the thermal comfort was less than desired and my companion was suffering in his suit while trying to have a conversation on the importance of comfort and wellbeing, on performance and productivity… I was definitely on ‘home advantage’ on that issue, without myself, breaking into a sweat!

But, the point of this post is about:

  • Recognising the belief of entitlement in others when we may not have had it ourselves, which can stop real progress in interior design and the built environment being utilised in a way to support wellbeing and productivity, and
  • Discussing the belief that with a bit of hardship (so less support of their wellbeing) people can ‘find out who they are’, ‘what true humans are made off’ and where real hard work can actually offer experience and strength.

All this can be true and still relevant where support of wellbeing occurs. In fact, it is the best way to allow real work to be undertaken towards self-discovery and increase of strengths.

I have realised, that a number of senior ‘industry veterans’ and business managers, which sit in key strategic and decision-making positions, share the view in the above two points. Following my research, personal work and results, and by observing occupants of all kinds in client spaces, I find that it is not a wise business and leadership decision to not support occupant wellbeing, whether it’s your office cleaner or your luxury hotel guest.

The different characteristics between generations and ways of thinking is a great place to look at to see this disparity and how it creates friction and dysfunction. We frequently hear of anecdotes where a Baby Boomer will look on at the demands of a Millennial employee and consider them rather cushioned and spoiled. Placing aside age, gender, race and roles to look at the nature of a human being in action, and anything organic for that matter, it is rational and with good business sense, to start all activities with a full and clear bill of health.

In a very short summary, the reason why it’s good to support wellbeing of others is because they will perform better for you. They still need to work extremely hard to achieve things but you are giving them a better platform to start from and use whatever talents and strengths they have towards just adding growth – not wasting lots of energy to come up from feeling minus to zero in the first place. If someone had to run a 100m sprint for you, would you send them to the start line handicapped and 10m further back or fully comfortable and right on the line? Does it matter if you did not have the same opportunity to be at the start line and one of your team now does? They still have to pull it out of the bag and work very hard to win the race; you just gave them better chances and in my eyes, that makes you a winner too. Same examples apply with anything that runs on fuel of any type: a car will run better and last longer if it has the right quality fuel and if it is serviced annually; plants will grow and produce fruit if their soil is full of nutrients and they are cared through the seasons, and so on…

It is the same with interiors and the effect space has on people whether they are staff, customers or a family; life will have challenges and space can support people when responding to these. Starting from feeling as healthy and as comfortable as is possible, at any given time and place, allows us to find our own wellbeing and shine. That includes grumpy veterans who are actually really caring; they just show it in a different way.