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18 January 2019
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10 July 2017 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal


Corporate real estate firms are contending more and more with how the design of workplaces can make their employees more productive – and happier.

Earlier this year, a report from professional engineering, consulting and project management services firm AECOM said toxic workplaces were jeopardising staff well-being.

At the time Nicola Gillen, global practice lead of strategy at AECOM, said: “The link between employee well-being and the built environment must not be overlooked in the drive to increase efficiency and the bottom line.”

Leesman Index, an organisation that surveys employees in the UK and globally on workplace effectiveness, has been talking for years about how happiness and well-being of workers should be “at the heart” of an office.

The Stoddart Review’s first report, The Workplace Advantage, more impersonally stated that smarter use of the UK’s office space could improve productivity by 1 to 3.5 per cent and deliver a boost of up to £70 billion to the economy.

All of these findings indicate putting the worker before profit but it is a symbiotic situation, as companies need methods to attract and keep staff.

Now a report by real estate organisation JLL is even suggesting there should be a ‘chief happiness officer’ in the workplace.


The study was conducted in consultation with 40 corporate clients and a survey answered by more than 70,000 anonymous employees – aged between 18 and 65 – across Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and the US. 

Participants in the consultation phase included the likes of Barclays, Nike, GSK, WPP, Facebook, BlackRock, Uber, CreditSuisse, and P&G. 

JLL’s study is part of its recently launched Future of Work research programme, and is based on consultations with decision-makers at the 40 corporations – and the results of a separate anonymous survey of more than 7,300 employees working for companies with more than 100 members of staff. Tom Carroll, JLL’s director of EMEA & UK corporate occupier research, said there had been a need for the work.

“There was a real recognition that this was an emerging and important issue for our clients,” he told FM World. “We were seeing the focus on experiential real estate in areas including retail and how it was starting to translate into the office environment. Individuals in the workplace were looking for an improved experience and we wanted to tap into this in depth.” 

Debra Ward, strategy and growth director, corporate solutions, EMEA for JLL, said one of the surprises of the study for her was “the need for kindness and trust in the workplace”, which was highlighted by many respondents. 

She said: “The fact we have to call that out is surprising – and a bit sad if I am honest. These are things we teach our three-year-olds… it’s almost as if we have to go back to those basics about what a human being needs and requires in order to feel fulfilled in their daily lives.” 

The workplace and real estate is one part of the solution. Carroll said the report also reveals how any changes come down to “the crucial importance and increasing confluence of a range of drivers”. 

Management approach, HR policy and governance, the right technology, and physical space, he said, “come together to create the right ingredients to improve the workplace experience”.