02 September 2019 | Martin Read
Wellbeing isn't particularly new, it's just that its component parts are being better defined as actionable elements, says Martin Read.
I was asked recently to check how many times I'd used the word 'wellbeing' in these Facilitate columns. Interestingly, it doesn't appear prior to May 2014. Nor, it transpires, did it come up in my feature work for other FM titles during the years 2003 to 2011. But since 2014? Yes, I think it's fair to say that wellbeing has made its way into the foreground. Our features this month, for example, discuss how best to prioritise wellbeing projects. We're even re-using a beloved old wellbeing headline of ours. It really is difficult to imagine we'll be dialling down the W-word rhetoric any time soon.
It's an odd thing, this ever shifting use of language. Everyone talks with such zeal today about a topic that was so rarely associated with running workplaces and facilities ten years ago, as if providing ways to ensure healthy, productive end-users was never really a thing back in the dark, desolate and apparently ill-served days prior to 2014.
This is, of course, an absurdist exaggeration. What actually seems to have happened is the introduction of a more nuanced and professional approach to measuring workplace productivity which in turn has brought into the mainstream a range of wider human issues. Some of these have well-established links to the work of this profession, others are freshly associated. It's not that wellbeing is new, it's just that its component parts are being better defined as actionable elements.
In this regard, wellbeing can be sensibly linked to that other hot topic, social value; one boosts the performance of our organisation's own people, the other aims to spur the performance of those closely connected to our organisations' operations - each with the promise of positive knock-on effects all round.
What's interesting is that service providers are starting to employ individuals with specific responsibility for wellbeing and social impact (Bartlett Mitchell and Sodexo respectively in recent announcements). There are different market drivers for these appointments, but the fact that providers are changing the way they are structured to address these issues with customers is quite a step in the workplace and facilities management profession's evolution, as well as evidence of its growing influence.
Martin Read is editor of Facilitate Magazine