Health, wealth, happiness, and the time to enjoy them is a traditional toast from South America, and one which I use often when friends get married. However, it struck me recently that the same good wishes apply as much to our built environment as they do to our lives. Or at least, they should.
The photo above is something that initially made me stop (when I walked over it in a London tube station); then pause; then go back and take the photo. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to laugh at it, smile wryly, or wonder at the state of a modern way of life where either of those two is a reasonable response. Have we really come so far from where we would like to be, where weary, down-trodden workers trudge home in the hope that a yoghurt drink will give them the strength to cope?
As we find ourselves about to launch our Health & Well-being services for the real estate industry, it has naturally started me thinking about how to apply the above toast to the harder-nosed end of the industry. The one I have worked in too. Where the numbers drive the investment, rather than the people. We had a traditional argument – ok, heated discussion if you insist – in one of my previous companies: which came first, the investor or the tenant. I always argued that without happy tenants, there would be no investment, and thus no ROI to argue about in the first place.
And so we come full circle, at least I hope so. As we begin to understand more about how our physical environment impacts our health and happiness, it is becoming inevitably clearer how our standardised work environments have been negatively affecting us for many years. Combined with the modern, technological ease of working a 24 hour day around the globe, can it really be so surprising that we have constructed workplaces fit for robots, rather than the human animal?
A final thought then, albeit a comparison. Think of the race horse, an infinitely pampered animal. Fed the right food, stabled in the perfect environment, exercised in the right way and for the right duration. I'm sure some even have classical musical playing (feel free to confirm/deny). And this is in order to make them faster, to enhance the profile, reputation and winnings of their owners. Without wanting to offend our species, why do we think we are so special? We are also animals, requiring the right environment, nourishment and lifestyle in order to make us well and productive. A nice side effect would be to make us happy to, thus enhancing the ‘well’ and ‘productive’. More than the just the rightenvironment, buildings should step up to become a safe haven for us, whether it is our nest (home) or hunting grounds (work).