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A recently published report from the Urban Research Institute claimed that commercial businesses in the UK would make “significant investment” in wellbeing in the UK over the next three years. 
© iStock
© iStock

02 September 2019 |  Herpreet Kaur Grewal

A recently published report from the Urban Research Institute, a non-profit research and education organisation for the built environment, claimed that commercial businesses in the UK would make “significant investment” in wellbeing in the UK over the next three years. The evidence that this is already happening is becoming clear, not least through new job roles specifically linked to the topic.

Last month, contract caterers Bartlett Mitchell announced the appointment of Hebe Richardson to the newly created position of ‘wellness manager’.

It’s instructive to note that the new role has been created to support the sustainable growth of the company, with Richardson tasked to develop a new “business-wide healthy eating strategy that combines both training and customer outreach with menu management and analysis”.

Richardson will advise clients and support them “to enhance their employee value proposition – helping to reduce sickness absence, increase retention and encourage more productivity”.

Richardson will report to quality standards manager Sally Grimes and oversee the development and delivery of nutritional training to Bartlett Mitchell teams, and inspire and educate customers through regular “lunch and learn” sessions.

Richardson will also work collaboratively with the chef teams to develop new recipe concepts that are tasty and nutritionally balanced. 

Prior to joining Bartlett Mitchell, Richardson completed an internship at a food policy think tank, while working as a chef at an independent cafe, upon completing a degree in nutrition at King’s College London. 

She is also a registered associate nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition. 

Richardson said: “There is a lot of confusion around nutrition and health, thanks to the growth of social media and the popularity of influencers. 

“Conveying coherent and scientifically sound messages to our customers and teams that can cut through some of this misinformation is something I am passionate about. I definitely believe that it’s our responsibility to give people the knowledge, tools and the choice to eat healthy and delicious food.”

Grimes said: “Providing our clients and customers with great tasting food that is also good for you has long been a priority at Bartlett Mitchell.

“By creating the wellness manager position and appointing someone as passionate and knowledgeable as Hebe, we are able to further cement our commitment to providing delicious and nutritious food in our restaurants, cafes, hospitality services and events.”

Lin Dickens, marketing director at Bartlett Mitchell, told Facilitate that companies were prioritising wellbeing because “societally we are seeing a greater awareness of mental health and the impact it has on people’s lives and consequently the workplace”. 

Dickens added: “There are a myriad of reasons why progressive businesses are now seeing the positive impact a good wellness strategy can have on things like productivity, absenteeism, innovation and creativity. In catering, the above, coupled with people and skills shortages mean companies have to work harder at retaining and attracting team members.”

Mitie has also created a wellbeing-focused role, with Dr Alexandra Morris as head of workplace wellbeing, behaviour change psychologist. She has been tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the wellbeing of Mitie’s clients and – it’s important to note – her psychology background highlights a keen focus on the area hitherto unseen in FM. 

The research from the Urban Institute, which forms part of a report, Picture of health: the growing role of wellbeing in commercial real estate investment decision-making, showed that the momentum behind wellbeing is, in part, due to companies trying to attract younger talent, which now expects certain workplace provisions. 

Victoria Lockhart, co-chair of ULI UK’s Sustainability Forum and director of market development at the International WELL Building Institute, said: “The increased interest in health and wellbeing we are already seeing from major players in the real estate industry cements the fact that wellbeing is becoming central to development and investment strategies.”

Social value

Just as wellbeing has become indispensable to corporate strategy, so too has social value. Last year, the government stated that all procurements would need to “explicitly evaluate social value”, motivating organisations to emphasise social value and wellbeing in their operations. 

And major organisations have responded, with Sodexo appointing Angela Halliday director of social impact, tasking her with driving Sodexo’s social value strategy for the UK and Ireland.

Halliday will work with Sodexo’s CEOs responsible for delivering services to the public sector, the organisation’s executive board and its public sector board to embed a social value approach across the UK and Ireland region. The role will involve organisational governance and reporting on the social value Sodexo delivers within its contracts.

Halliday’s appointment will “increase transparency in the way Sodexo publishes social accounts and evidences its social impact across its contracts”.

Meanwhile, Amey has increased its spend across its supply chain – to more than £2 million – on companies that use their profits to create positive social change in the communities in which they operate while the Kier Group has transferred funds from its Apprenticeship Levy to its supply chain in Liverpool to upskill two employees to management level through apprenticeships.  

Emma Potter