Workplace wellbeing in the Logistics sector

In the modern day and age, the workplace has become much more than just a place to work. And over the last 12 months, this has become more apparent than ever in the distribution and logistics sector.

In response to rising demand for space and workers, Director James Carlisle looks at the ways in which the sector is changing for the better, and the progressive steps we should expect to see in the years to come.

Experiencing immense industrial growth in the age of e-commerce, there has been a well-publicised rising demand for warehouse space as well as a massive drive to recruit and look after the highest of skilled workers - who are in short supply.

This focus on people and their wellbeing is a shift the industrial and logistics sector has been perceived slow in taking up, as there’s a growing recognition of creating people centric spaces. The health and welfare of employees is now at the top of the priority list in the design and development of new and refurbished warehouses.

Warehouse occupiers are working with owners to enhance facilities for their staff, with a warehouse building no longer solely focused on logistics. Considerations that were once believed to be a novel idea in the workplace - such as running tracks and green pathways, are now viewed as part of the employee package and a must have.

Transitioning from the traditional logistics warehouse

Warehouse workers are required to work longer shifts, take fewer breaks, and meet difficult targets time and again. And usually, working in a warehouse is more physically demanding than an office job, with workers constantly walking between aisles, stocking shelves and managing inventory. 

This has been the apparent expectation if you’re to choose the role of a warehouse worker. But in the age of a more responsible employer corporate culture, this viewpoint will soon be a thing of the past.

There is a significant increase in developer and landlord interest to provide additional benefits as part of a ‘base’ specification to employers. What this will look like depends on the specific needs of each employee and employer.

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Developing advanced warehouse design

Staff retention and productivity is now at the forefront of a company’s objectives and delivery. There has been a shift in expectations, with businesses no longer looking for traditional industrial parks to host their warehouse space. Quality space is becoming a priority and new workplace requirements, such as recharge/meditation/pause zones and social areas, are starting a new logistical revolution. 

Businesses are also aware that the new generation of workers entering the workplace have different expectations. To thrive in today’s climate and recruit and retain quality, skilled workers, businesses need to provide the best environment for employees and place a greater emphasis on wellbeing.

Conversations around the material elements of a building are being had like never before. Utilising office space in the appropriate location - where workers can make the most of the daylight, using artificial or natural lighting, or even fitting a customer facing gym inside a warehouse, are forward-thinking ideas being implemented for the physical and mental wellbeing of employees.

In theory, a better working environment will enable employees to have a better feel for their job, and lead to increased productivity. Of course, this isn’t a completely selfless act by landlords. 

The rise of e-commerce, which shows no sign of slowing down, has meant more competition for staff in warehouses. So, providing best-in-class workplaces is a naturally competitive advantage.

James Carlisle

Operational Director - Transaction Advisory & Due Diligence

Testimonial

The age of automation and people

Modern logistics and warehouses rely on advanced technology more so now than ever. With companies such as ASOS, Tesco and Amazon offering same-day delivery (albeit not in all parts of the country), it’s essential that goods are stored and then delivered to the customer at high-speed.

What this means for warehouse workers is the need to be equipped with developed or different skills to adapt – as they are an ever-important part of an integrated workforce with technology.

As the sector’s rapid expansion continues, work productivity will increase, with the aim of lowering staff turnover. There’s no escaping the fact that warehouses are busy, and very often challenging environments to work in. But what is for sure - by creating modernised warehouses that have welfare requirements, is that a different quality of staff is being attracted.

Is WELL, well important?

There are a number of wellness building standards in the market, two leading building standards are WELL and Fitwel. With a comprehensive approach to human health and wellness, both look at a large range of categories including water, light, fitness, mind and innovation. RPS is proud to be a WELL Accredited Organisation, with Akshatha Veerendra as one of our Principal Consultants in Energy, Sustainability and Wellbeing. Akshatha works with clients across UK and Europe, helping them create a positive space for their occupants. 

Wellness considerations have close links with other sustainability themes, many of which are required for planning, such as biodiversity and energy efficiency, as well as more strategic net zero carbon initiatives.

By embedding health and human experience into design, a WELL Certified project has the potential to add measurable value to the health, wellbeing and happiness of building occupants. Optimising health and wellbeing in buildings can be achieved by incorporating biophilic design throughout the project, such as green walls, water features, natural lighting and materials.

Thinking outside the box, literally

The last few years have seen huge strides in wellbeing improvements in logistics assets. The exception is now becoming the expected from investors and occupiers.

E-commerce has been a driving force for generating demand for a new type and range of logistical outlets. This could be anything from large regional fulfilment centres to smaller urban depots for the last mile delivery. And with COVID-19 forcing wellbeing and sustainable buildings to the top of business agendas, this will continue to be reflected in enhanced performance for the most sustainable logistics resources.

For a company to achieve its goals, its employees need to be present, both mentally and physically. Being dedicated to and promoting good health amongst people will help with retention, recruitment and demonstrate a business commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations.

As a warehouse employee, who wouldn’t want to be situated within expertly landscaped surroundings, with excellent transport links, or have high quality amenities on offer? An enhanced working environment will improve staff retention, wellbeing, and create a culture of connection. Being motivated and driven as an employee will only result in a better bottom line for the employer.

How we can help

RPS supports the full lifecycle of logistics assets - from pre-acquisition due diligence, to development and design and operation and refurbishment. We ensure the maximisation of asset value and operational efficiency by the building and its occupants to advance its future saleability.

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