Offices will need to do more to attract employees in a post-pandemic world
Have you heard about the WELL Health-Safety seal?
If not, here’s the high profile promo. It features Jennifer Lopez. And Lady Gaga. Not to mention Robert De Niro, Michael Jordan, Venus Williams and Deepak Chopra. Oh, and Dr Richard Carmona too — the seventeenth Surgeon-General of the United States of America.
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It’s basically a certification scheme for buildings — promising high standards of, well, wellness. Which is all well and good, but why are so many celebs and experts promoting it? More to the point who’s paying them to do it? (I’m assuming they’ve been paid. Well paid, most likely.)
These guys are selling a lot more than air-con. In the post-Covid world, attempting to set the global standard in this field is a major commercial play.
You see, only one thing makes a location valuable — which is that everyone wants to be there. Thus the property sector doesn’t just sell space, it sells a vision.
Before the pandemic, that vision was centred around the idolisation of work. Companies like WeWork and Second Home sold working space as a high status lifestyle. But then Covid came along. Not only did we discover the advantages and practicality of working from home, we became sensitive to the dangers of herding workers into glass boxes.
If the providers of working space are to tempt us back into their crystal towers then they will have to sell them as places of wellness as well as work. Defining what that means and helping employers and landlords achieve it will be one of the great growth industries of the 2020s.
However, we need think about this issue holistically (to a use favourite word of the wellness industry). Things that happen on the inside of a building — like adequate ventilation — matter more than ever, but shouldn’t we also care about how buildings make people feel on the outside?
Do they contribute to welcoming public spaces? Or do they extend a towering middle finger to rest of us?
If it’s the latter, then I fear that any wellness standard is just putting lipstick on a pig.