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Workplace Wellness Is Coming To Dublin Big Time, But Does It Pay?

mac-group's Tiffany Quinn; Hibernia REIT's Edwina Governey; PepTalk's Bernard Brogan, Workday's Shane-Louise Connolly; Slack's Ciaran Chaney; Iconic Office's Joe McGinley

“How do you get the right density, fit the bums on seats, give people what they want and make them feel healthy, valued and nurtured?”

Moderator Tiffany Quinn of mac-group summed up the paradox of modern office theory at Bisnow’s Dublin Workspace of the Future event 21 June. The concept of wellness is taking hold in a big way in Dublin, and occupiers and landlords are embracing the concept wholeheartedly. But it is not always easy to work out how it can be best applied, especially in a market where the growth in headcount puts space at a premium.

Here are seven key points to consider when it comes to office wellness that were discussed at the event, held at Hibernia REIT's 1 Windmill Lane office scheme.

Get ready for 'soft wellness'

For occupiers in Dublin today, wellness means more than plenty of natural light and fresh air.

“Those hard wellness elements are important, but we have been a bit surprised by how important the softer elements of wellness are, like community spirit,” Hibernia Senior Investment Manager Edwina Governey said. “So we have organised our first ping pong tournament in the Windmill Quarter and run self defence classes. It is easier to do when you have scale.”

Bisnow's Dublin Workspace of the Future

Pool tables can be a distraction

A lot of the accoutrements of tech companies that are becoming common in all kinds of offices are not necessarily helpful.

“We have three key words in what we do: simple, productive, pleasant,” Slack Regional Workplace Manager Ciaran Chaney said. “We think things like pool tables and ping pong are a distraction that stop people being as productive as they can be. We want them to be able to come in and do their work so they can go home again, and we want them to have as little distraction as possible. That means paying a lot of attention to quiet spaces.”

Wellness centres are arriving en masse

While some occupiers like Slack are stripping back amenities to reduce distractions, others like Workday are building dedicated wellness centres and a whole lot more.

“Wellness and well-being is only just starting,” Workday Workplace Manager Shane-Louise Connolly said. “Software developers are in demand in Dublin, they can pick and choose where they go and we need to keep them, so we listen to them carefully and have a big focus on wellness, whether it’s our snack programme or a dedicated wellness centre. We have a snack programme but not a dining programme as we want to go out of the building and contribute to Smithfield, where we are based.”

In growing companies, wellness must battle for space

One thing Slack and Workday agreed on is that with tech companies in particular growing rapidly, it can be difficult to decide how much space can be taken away from workstations and given over to things devoted to wellness.

“We are providing space for a wellness centre, but of course that space is needed for desks,” Connolly said. It’s about finding that sweet spot of how you dedicate enough space for work but for wellness as well.”

It is a circle that needs to be squared, and if it is not, it can have an effect on productivity.

“If you are at capacity and can’t give over any space to quiet areas then the building feels crowded and people can’t be productive,” Chaney said.

Bisnow's Dublin Workspace of the Future event

The best real estate isn’t for work anymore

“When you speak to companies, the best areas, with the most space and natural light, aren’t being given over to workstations anymore,” PepTalk founder Bernard Broghan said. The example given was Workday’s entire sixth floor, with fantastic views of Dublin, used entirely for communal space with no desks at all.

Quantifying the value of wellness is still hard

“It’s still something of a leap of faith,” Hibernia’s Governey said.“There is a lot of internal debate about things like the Town Hall space here (pictured above), or putting a gym in. The gym has a lower rent than office space, and the communal space you can’t put a finger on a value at all. The stats can be elusive but I firmly believe that things things are ‘rentified’ in terms of increasing office rents, and they will prove their value in the long term.”

The culture of the company is as important as the space

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” co-working firm Iconic Offices Chief Executive and founder Joe McGinley said. “What works in one industry doesn’t necessarily work in another. Each company needs to bring their own approach and understand their culture and what their staff want."