'Game-ify' exercise in workplace and you'll improve wellness, productivity, bosses told.
"Engaging hearts and minds", with an eye to boosting productivity was the hot topic at Frog Recruitment's "intrapreneur" breakfast at AUT University's business and law faculty.
Tim Hooson, principal and head of workplace strategy at architectural firm Jasmax, approached it from a workspace design aspect, while Brad Norris, director of Synergy Health, covered the effect of workplace wellness on employee performance and productivity.
Hooson said that after a decade of measuring cause and effect at Jasmax, the question of whether the office environment really affects performance and productivity could be answered with a resounding "yes".
But the real challenge was that the way people worked was changing much faster than the buildings they occupied, he said.
"Where previously we all came into the office because operational and management structure and 'tools' all needed to be under the same roof, we are no longer defined by geographic location or the physical presence of a building."
According to Jasmax research, "comfort" is seen by the occupants of buildings as the most important aspect of the workplace, rated more highly than the look of the design.
And respondents rate "communication" as the No 1 factor contributing to their ability to successfully perform their work. A recent MIT study found that 80 per cent of breakthrough innovation didn't occur during formal meetings, but almost always as a result of informal or even accidental encounters, and Hooson says this shows that the current structure of many of our workplaces isn't working as well as it could be.
"The workplace is significant because it's one of the only tangible things that can capture and express the spirit of an organisation," he said.
"It is important for organisations to capture the hearts and minds of their people, providing a sense of purpose and belonging as well as a sense of place in the world, because this is why we commit to what we're doing when we're working."
Back when Brad Norris was studying for his masters in organisational psychology, a mere half hour was spent on employee health and wellbeing and its effect on performance.
When Norris then founded Synergy Health 15 years ago, employee health and wellbeing was "a pretty hard sell", but he notes the environment has now changed significantly.
But "although people do value their health, it is not often a key driver that shapes behaviour and influences [day-to-day] decision-making", he said. "And when you're trying to encourage people to improve their health and wellbeing, simply telling them to do something to become more healthy doesn't work."
The World Health Organisation recommends people take 10,000 steps a day, but the average for an office-based worker is 3000.
"Unfortunately, a lot of people adopt the mentality that they don't need to move during the day because they will exercise for an hour at the end of it. We should be incorporating it into our day." Norris' stand-up desk has a treadmill under it and he does about 25,000 steps a day as he walks and works at the same time. He encourages his clients to go to "sneaker" meetings or at least to stand up when talking on the phone.
Norris admitted it's not always easy to implement a wellness programme because often organisations don't really know what the business outcomes are going to be.
Research shows 40 per cent of New Zealand workplaces have implemented some kind of wellness programme, and that's increasing. But from Norris' perspective, the popular programmes of flu vaccines and online health presentations won't create the behaviour change needed to get a positive return on investment.
A strategy proving very successful is to "game-ify" wellness, and for this Norris recommends tapping into a broader range of values.
"Using, say, a walking challenge, if the average person is doing 3000 steps then game-ify it with leader boards, messaging systems, prizes.
"Encourage banter within the workplace, and get that step count up to 13,000. The way in which we populate the individual experience is based upon the individual's key drivers, so it's more likely to create that behavioural change. It could be going to the gym, or walking with a colleague at lunchtime, or using a pedometer, or doing it as a competition. They are all very different from a values perspective and will affect people in different ways."
Norris advised that in engaging hearts and minds, experiences should provide the things that are important to people.