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Revolutionising warehouse wellbeing with Prological

The MIT Sloan School of Management is conducting a comprehensive survey into fulfilment centre environments. Image: Tada Images /

Warehouses are evolving beyond their traditional roles, now focusing on employee wellbeing, operational efficiency, and resource utilisation. Peter Jones of Prological delves into how modern warehouse design prioritises these elements, reshaping the industry’s future.

In the realm of warehouse design, a transformative wave is reshaping the industry’s future. Peter Jones from Prological highlights the profound shift in warehouse design philosophy, emphasising not just the efficiency and utilisation of resources, but crucially, the wellbeing of employees working within these spaces. 

According to Peter, this approach marks a significant departure from past practices, where employee wellbeing was scarcely considered beyond basic requirements.

“Thirty or forty years ago, the wellbeing of people was barely on the brief for warehouse design, aside from minimal considerations like the number of urinals needed,” Peter explains. This reflection sheds light on how the priorities in warehouse design have radically evolved over time. Today, there’s a growing recognition of the impact a work environment has on the productivity, efficiency, and longevity of employees. This recognition is steering the industry towards designs that invest more profoundly in the working conditions of warehouse staff.

The crux of next-generation warehouse design, as Peter articulates, revolves around three key objectives: efficient use of physical resources, operational efficiency within the facility, and significantly, the wellbeing of the workforce. This holistic approach to warehouse design represents a paradigm shift from traditional practices. As Peter puts it: “If I invest in the environment in which my warehouse staff work, it will be returned to me in the form of higher productivity, less absenteeism, and a happier workforce.”

Peter draws a parallel between the evolution of warehouse and office environments. He points out that while businesses have long invested in creating modern, attractive office spaces to lure top talent and boost productivity, warehouses have lagged behind in this regard. “We wouldn’t bring a prospective employee into a 1970s office environment today, yet this disconnect between written aspirations and the actual environment still exists in many warehouses,” Peter observes. This mismatch not only impacts employee morale but also a company’s ability to attract and retain quality staff.

Peter highlights research and case studies that underscore the tangible benefits of investing in employee-centric warehouse design. He refers to a significant reduction in absenteeism as reported by Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand’s CEO, Mike Foster, who credits this to the company’s Green Star environment. Peter cites a memorable quote from Mike: “We want people to enjoy working at Fujitsu and we’re creating a culture which attracts and retains staff. Our Green Star office is good for our employees and good for our business, even helping to reduce absenteeism by 42 per cent.” 

The transformative impact of green building design on workplace productivity and employee wellbeing is increasingly evident, with Green Star buildings leading the charge. These buildings, by virtue of their design, consistently outperform traditional structures, creating environments that are not just environmentally sustainable but also significantly boost employee productivity and comfort.

One of the cornerstones of Green Star buildings is their emphasis on natural elements like light and air. The integration of natural light and fresh air into the workplace has been a game-changer. According to the World Green Building Council’s Business Case for Green Building report from 2013, the influence of these elements on productivity is profound. The report reveals that access to daylight and operable windows can result in up to an 18 per cent increase in productivity. This remarkable figure underscores the importance of design that harnesses natural elements, breaking away from the traditional reliance on artificial lighting and ventilation systems.

The impact of green building design extends beyond just daylight. Improved ventilation, a staple in Green Star buildings, can lead to productivity gains of up to 11 per cent. This improvement is attributed to the enhanced air quality and the resultant reduction in pollutants, which positively affects cognitive functions and overall health of employees. Furthermore, the ability for individuals to control the temperature of their workspace plays a crucial role, with research indicating up to a 3 per cent increase in productivity when this control is provided. This personal control over the environment not only enhances physical comfort but also fosters a sense of autonomy and satisfaction among workers.

Furthermore, Peter mentions the ongoing research at MIT’s Sloan School, poised to be the most developed study on this subject. This research, alongside others, solidifies the understanding that improvements in warehouse environments can lead to substantial benefits, not just for employees but for the businesses as a whole.

When discussing the practicalities of integrating these wellness elements into warehouse design, Peter underscores that it doesn’t necessarily mean higher costs. “It’s about thinking holistically from the start, rather than piecemealing the operational, office, and amenity aspects for warehouse staff,” he states. This integrated approach ensures that each element of the warehouse design works in harmony, contributing to the overall wellbeing of employees.

Peter also points out the shortcomings of ‘90s warehouse designs, often characterised by bland, under-maintained, and isolated working environments. He contrasts this with modern designs that focus on quality air circulation, thermal control, and natural light. These elements, he argues, are not just niceties but are essential to creating a workplace where people feel valued and are more productive.

The conversation with Peter also delves into the relationship between the physical design of warehouses and its impact on staff morale and productivity. He highlights the significance of details such as the design of entrance areas, locker rooms, and recreational spaces. “When these facilities are places that people like to be, it totally changes the thinking of the person that’s entered there,” Peter notes, emphasising the psychological impact of the work environment on employees.

Additionally, Peter discusses the challenges in bringing these design concepts to fruition, particularly in the face of generic building designs favoured by developers. The crux of the issue lies in aligning the interests of developers, real estate firms, and tenants to prioritise wellbeing in warehouse design. 

Despite these challenges, Peter is optimistic about the future, citing examples of companies like Nike and ResMed, which have successfully integrated wellness into their facility designs.

The shift in warehouse design towards prioritising employee wellbeing represents a significant and necessary evolution in the industry. As Peter Jones articulates, this approach goes beyond mere operational efficiency and resource utilisation. It embraces a more holistic view, acknowledging that the wellbeing of warehouse staff is integral to the overall success and sustainability of the business. The transformation of warehouse environments into spaces that foster wellbeing, efficiency, and productivityis not just a trend but a fundamental shift in how we perceive and value the workspaces of the future. 

For more information on Prological, click here

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