The workplace has undergone profound changes in recent times, driven by the advent of hybrid working and evolving workforce expectations. Employers now grapple with the challenge of enticing employees back to the office, especially with Generation Z (Gen Z) making a significant entrance into the workforce. Gen Z, known for their tech-savvy nature and discerning choices, places a premium on an enhanced work environment. Recognizing the importance of employee wellbeing, employers are increasingly turning to esteemed building standards such as SKA and WELL when revamping office spaces.

Elevated Expectations of Gen Z in the Workplace

Gen Z, encompassing individuals born between 1996 and 2010, is set to become a substantial force in the workforce. Despite common stereotypes, employers neglect Gen Z's preferences at their own peril. A ThoughtExchange report underscores that Gen Z employees seek to feel valued and empowered at work, emphasizing workplace benefits, wellness perks, a positive company culture, and a strong commitment to sustainability. Building standards addressing air and water quality, comfort, access to light, and biophilia while prioritizing a reduced global footprint align well with the aspirations of this generation.

The WELL Standard: Thriving on Biophilia

The WELL standard, crafted by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI™), stands on seven years of collaborative research with scientists, doctors, and architects exploring the nexus between built environments and their impacts on health and well-being.This standard recognizes the innate human connection with nature, encapsulated in the concept of biophilia.

"Biophilia supports the idea that humans have an affinity towards the natural world. Evidence on the emotional and psychological benefits of nature is mounting. Research indicates that the experience of nature or nature-derived patterns can improve experience, mood, and happiness."

*Feature 100 Biophilia II, The WELL standard

Moreover, the WELL standard acknowledges the detrimental effects of work environments devoid of nature on employees: 

"Exposure to views and images of nature can help to speed up healing and recovery time, boost positive feelings and reduce negative ones. Interior environments that are cold, sterile and devoid of life, on the other hand, can diminish our experience, mood and happiness."

*Feature 89 Biophilia I, The WELL standard

In pursuit of these principles, the WELL standard places a strong emphasis on incorporating biophilia into the workplace, with specific guidelines mandating the inclusion of potted plants, planted beds, and plant walls.

The SKA Rating: Benchmarking Sustainability

The SKA rating, established by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), serves as an environmental assessment method, benchmark, and standard for commercial premises fit-outs. Offering over100 sustainability Good Practice Measures (GPM) across eight areas, including energy, CO2, waste, water, pollution, transport, materials, and wellbeing, SKA enables businesses to prioritize sustainability in a quantifiable manner.

Gold-standard SKA Rating for Montagu

An exemplary case is Montagu, a leading private equity firm that partnered with Vantage Spaces and Morgan Lovell for an ambitious office fit-out. Achieving carbon neutrality since 2019, Montagu was determined to entice employees back to the office post-pandemic by creating an attractive, sustainable environment. The use of biophilia, including moss walls, vibrant plants, and lush greenery, played a pivotal role in promoting well-being, staff retention, and recruitment. The result was a well-deservedGold-standard SKA rating, making Montagu's office a fantastic and sustainable workspace.

Beyond Sustainability: Benefits and Impact

While meeting WELL and SKA standards undoubtedly contributes to a more sustainable workplace, the benefits extend beyond environmental impact reduction. Such compliant environments foster enhanced brand image, improved health, increased well-being, and performance, making them attractive to talent. These standards also encourage office presence, even in a post-pandemic era where it is no longer mandatory.Importantly, they cultivate a sense of pride and belonging among employees – an intangible yet precious commodity, especially in a workspace where Gen Z emerges as the largest generational group.