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Wellness Takes Centre Stage In Dublin's Latest Wave Of Office Buildings

As companies compete to attract and keep the best employees, a great office environment is a big selling point and health and wellbeing features and facilities are an increasingly important differentiator. 

The latest Savills Skyline Survey reports that a range of wellness-related features — including gyms, kitchens, meditation and prayer facilities, bike racks, club style locker rooms, showers and drying rooms — are standard offerings in the latest wave of office buildings. “Employees expect these and organisations recognise their benefits both in attracting the best talent in a low unemployment environment and enhancing employee welfare and productivity,” Savills said.

These amenities are fast becoming ubiquitous. But do they really pay off in terms of staff retention?

LinkedIn's employee gym at its EMEA HQ in Dublin
LinkedIn's employee gym at its EMEA HQ in Dublin

“This focus on wellness originated in West Coast tech companies like Google, but there’s been increased focus from other employers, particularly those that are trying to attract millennials,” Savills Surveyor Conor Egan said.

Both reflecting and helping drive this trend is the International WELL Building Institute, which describes itself as fostering “a holistic formula for better health and wellness outcomes, leading to improvements in things like employee productivity, engagement and retention”.

To measure and assess how that formula is being applied, the institute has also developed a standard: WELL v1 covers seven core concepts — air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind — and is focused on how design, operations and behaviours within different environments can be optimised to improve health and wellbeing.

So far, just one workplace in Ireland — Arup’s office at One Albert Quay in Cork — has been awarded WELL certification, but a number of other organisations have started the process of having their projects assessed and certified. 

RKD Associate Sean Hogan believes WELL will soon become as prevalent in new buildings as the LEED energy efficiency standard currently is. “LEED is everywhere around the city now,” he says. “A few developers adopted it and it became the trend and everyone had to do it. It’ll take a bit of time, but I think WELL will go the same way.”

Dublin may not have any WELL-certified buildings just yet, but a growing number of workplaces have incorporated many of its principles into their facilities.

LinkedIn EMEA HQ – Wilton Place

A range of health-promoting facilities and benefits are on offer at LinkedIn’s recently opened 190K SF Wilton Place office building. LinkedIn Ireland Head Sharon McCooey says the company places a big emphasis on workplace wellbeing to ensure staff can be their most productive selves.

“We have a gym and fitness studio on-site, along with our own in-house restaurant to promote good nutritional choices,” she said. “This also extends into the design of our building, whereby we hide snacks in drawers and cupboards, while making healthier options more readily accessible. We also promote cycling to work and have 300 bicycle parking spaces in order to encourage staff to pursue this option.”

The gym and fitness studio offers classes in Pilates and boxing, while on-site personal trainers are available to staff. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and the building also has a series of micro-kitchens and a barista bar. LinkedIn runs an InDay programme whereby employees get a day each month to invest in themselves or contribute to a cause. The most recent InDay provided workshops on meditation and mindfulness and how to prepare healthy meals at home. Employees also get an allowance of €1,200 to use for massages, gym memberships and personal training.

HubSpot, One and Two Dockland Central

HubSpot kitchen at its Dublin offices
Employee kitchen at HubSpot's Dublin office

Marketing and sales software company HubSpot moved into 26K SF in Hibernia Reit’s One Dockland Central in 2016 and took additional space at Two Dockland Central earlier this year.

According to the company, its Healthy@HubSpot initiative is designed to help interested employees live healthier at work and beyond through office amenities, programming and benefits. The company says it’s not just about keeping workers healthy and productive, but also aims to create a community and ensure people are comfortable in their workspace.

Included among the Dublin facilities are nap rooms, rooms for mothers who are breastfeeding, quiet spaces and roof terraces. In addition, some spaces are dimly lit while other are bright with lots of natural light. All desks can be transformed from sitting to standing at the push of a button.

HubSpot says many of its employees are trained fitness instructors and often teach yoga, Pilates or tai-chi in the on-site gym. 

“With flexibility and wellness central to our employee experience programmes, we constantly invest time and thought into creating a remarkable office environment,” said Kate Moran, HubSpot's culture programme manager for Dublin.

1WML

The centrepiece of Hibernia Reit’s 400K SF Windmill Quarter, 1WML includes 124K SF of office space let to Informatica, Core Media and Pinsent Masons. Hibernia Reit’s director of development, Mark Pollard, said the cluster of buildings will all avail of various wellness-related facilities in 1WML, like the community-focused 7K SF town hall space.

“Various classes and activities are organised in the town hall, mainly focused on health and wellness,” Pollard said. “Later this year, the new gym will open and, while it will be open to the public, there will be a special focus on the occupants of our buildings.”

Pollard stressed the importance of creating facilities that people actually want to use. “We like to make sure we have really good cycle facilities and storage and that they’re close to the showers and the lockers,” he said. “Our facilities in 1WML are equal to top health club standards. We want people to want to use them. Under planning you have to provide showers and bike racks — but you can provide the minimum possible or you can embrace it and design something really good.”

Iput buildings

Artist's impression of Iput's One Wilton Park building
Artist's impression of Iput's One Wilton Park

Developer Iput moved its own offices to 47-49 St Stephen’s Green earlier this year and said it is on track to achieving WELL Gold certification. The company said the 30K SF space has been designed with a focus on comfort and collaboration and features sit-stand desks, stand-up meeting spaces, interactive touch screens and access to roof gardens.

The company is also understood to be looking at achieving WELL Platinum on One Wilton Park, a 150K SF development that is due to go on-site later this year and will replace Fitzwilton House. Designed by Henry J Lyons, some of the planned features include multiple roof terraces, green walls in light wells, light-filled atriums, visible stair linkages, and a higher floor to ceiling ratio. The building has been pre-let, reportedly to LinkedIn.

The best of the rest

New Relic's Dublin office with green wall
The green wall at New Relic's Dublin offices

Other buildings around Dublin that have incorporated health-promoting features include One Microsoft Place in Leopardstown, which has a woodland walking/running trail, a dedicated yoga room, treatment rooms, a roof garden and healthy eating options.

At Zendesk’s offices at 55 Charlemont, employees can avail of quiet time out in the ‘no device’ relaxation space, while New Relic has incorporated a green wall into the atrium area of its new office space on Golden Lane.