BR Analysis: Companies in Romania paying attention to employees’ wellbeing

Newsroom 08/07/2018 | 16:00

From corporate medical subscriptions, to an attractive package of both financial and non-financial perks, gym subscriptions and a friendly working environment, the majority of companies active in Romania have understood the importance of the wellbeing of their talent. They have gradually shifted from the work-life balance concept to the new work-life integration paradigm.

By Anda Sebesi

With employees and job seekers now expecting their packages to go beyond salary and traditional bonuses, the concept of wellbeing has developed gradually over the last few years.

The psychological wellbeing of its employees is an important aspect for any organization and so it has become a focus for both HR departments and employees of multinational companies active on the local market.

Things have evolved so far at international level that experts in psychology can scientifically demonstrate a direct correlation between wellbeing and its positive impact on work performance. According to international studies, when we experience positive mood/feelings, our brain is on average 31 percent more productive than when we are in a negative, neutral or stressed mood. In addition, according to Fortune, the company you work for can improve your personal/family life (supporting you in your role as a parent) and health (encouraging you to give up smoking or maintain a healthy lifestyle).

“Research shows there is only one experience in life that increases happiness over a long  time. It’s not money, above a base survival amount, nor marriage or having kids. The one thing that makes people happy is the quality and quantity of their social connections,” says Gallup researcher and author, Tom Rath.

“The return is high for forward-thinking organizations that invest in the physical, cognitive and psychological wellbeing of their people by thinking about it holistically and incorporating it as part of their business strategy. The result is highly engaged employees. The most successful organizations are now turning their attention to employee wellbeing as a way to gain emotional, financial and competitive advantage,” says Christophe Weller, CEO & founder of COS.

At present, there are over 50 types of wellbeing programs on the Romanian market, focusing on different aspects such as physical and psycho-emotional health, personal development and various hobbies.

AN OFFICE THAT FEELS LIKE HOME

“Offices have become more than workplaces. They have become a platform through which businesses can display their values, promote their culture and share their story,” says Fulga Dinu, country manager of operations at Immofinanz Romania.

As pundits say, at present organizations have between three and five generations of workers. This represents a major challenge for companies as each generation of employees has a different perception of what a workplace means and what it should look like. In this context how should companies respond to the needs of the different generations?

“We first need to listen and understand. It also depends on the industry, as some offices are linked to production. When you have millennials with friendly, colourful offices – what are workers in the production area going to say? They will think their colleagues in the office don’t really do any work,” said Diana Calfa, managing partner at Morphoza, during Realty Forum, a real estate event organized recently by Business Review.

The design of offices is focused on flexibility and dynamism

She adds that while none of us know how we will be working in the next five years, at present the design of offices is focused on flexibility and dynamism. “Companies want to maximize the existing space and one of the solutions for these needs is shared-desk or flexi desk,” adds Calfa.

Sebastian Dragomir, director, office advisory, at real estate consultancy company Colliers International Romania, stated during the same event that arranging offices so that employees feel more connected and to encourage collaboration is the starting point for the office of the future. “Companies have started to use in their office spaces things that are specific to the residential and hospitality segments,” he said.

On the same theme, Dinu of Immofinanz says that the company has noticed how organizations have begun to recognize that a thoughtful, progressive work environment can reflect brand value, while improving health and productivity, innovation and collaboration in the workforce. “It is not so much about working spaces anymore, but about living spaces, with employees’ wellbeing becoming a priority. Office spaces are already part of value creation, helping to recruit, enforce the brand and provide visible sustainability credentials, and the trend will continue in this direction. This is why our myhive concept stands for a friendly and a hotel-inspired design, as well as a number of services and amenities, to enable tenants to focus on their business,” says Dinu.

Plus, as Dragomir of Colliers says, developers offer a wide range of complementary services like gyms or kindergartens, aiming to create communities that will make relocation a more difficult process. He adds that while two years ago corporate representatives were talking about “work-life balance” in the office market, now this concept has become obsolete and is being replaced with the “work-life integration” paradigm.

According to Dinu, the wellbeing of the workforce is a crucial element for developers gearing up for a new project. “The wellbeing of people in an office space depends on many aspects such as lighting, acoustics, noise, interior design, thermal comfort and air quality. As is the case with the international office brand, myhive, the various facilities offer employees an adequate, well-equipped, socially-orientated environment,” says Dinu. She adds that the presence of hospitality businesses contributes to improving the daily experience of the people who work in the area, and with the growing number of corporate employees, the need to make their services easily accessible has increased.

“As the labour market is increasingly competitive, companies are more and more focused on attracting and keeping talent. This translates into a strong focus by tenants on the needs and wellbeing of their employees, and office spaces play a crucial part in this,” says Dinu. She gives the new trivago campus – the new global headquarter for the company – which is being developed by Immofinanz in Dusseldorf, as an example. “According to trivago, they want to attract the best talent from all over the world and therefore it is crucial not only to offer an office but a place where everybody feels comfortable,” says the Immofinanz representative.

A MAJOR SHIFT IN THE OFFICE FIELD

As people’s work changes, their needs change. And as needs change, work environments must also change to remain supportive. The evolution of offices as places primarily for process work to places for creative work has profound implications for wellbeing. “Creative work is all about making connections, being open to new ideas, taking risks and experimenting. These behaviours are impossible in a stressed state of mind. For creative work to thrive, the workplace needs to be a supportive and positive environment. For creative work, the workplace matters more than ever and it needs to do more than ever,” says Weller of COS.

He says that based on Steelcase research, six dimensions of wellbeing have been identified and they can be impacted by the design of the physical environment: optimism (provide spaces that can be easily modified, to encourage creativity), mindfulness (create environments that support focus and minimize distractions for all tasks by providing a diverse range of facilities), authenticity (allow individuals and teams to express their personalities by selecting the environments that best suit their work styles), belonging (provide spaces that encourage personal and professional connections), meaning (provide social spaces to reinforce the importance of fun and social interactions) and vitality (a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces that offer posture choices – sitting, standing, lounging).

“Turn-key projects depend a lot on the building, the requirements and the quality of finishes. The budget range is extremely vast. If we allow 10 sqm/person, the budget of our previous projects can be found between EUR 80 to EUR 800/sqm,” adds Weller.

A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO FINANCIAL PERKS

In addition to the work-life balance benefits that Adobe Romania gives its employees, the company offers them the opportunity to buy Adobe shares at a preferential rate within an internal savings program. “In addition to the salary increases, high performers get Adobe equity stakes which they can trade, allowing them to benefit directly from the company’s success. While last year the price of a share was USD 130, today it is USD 250. So, employees who buy or receive equity stakes have significant extra-salary benefits,” says Cris Radu, senior director of engineering and site leader at Adobe Romania.

Office spaces are already part of value creation, helping to recruit and enforce the brand

He adds that this is one of the most popular benefits among the company’s employees and it is a very effective tool to retain and motivate the team. “Each employee can experience directly the company’s success which is translated into the positive evolution of the stakes and so they have an entrepreneurial approach to the project they are involved in,” says Radu. According to him, this measure is implemented in the company worldwide and is one of the most popular among software companies that take an entrepreneurial approach rather than a corporate one. “It is more connected with the values of each company than with the competitiveness of the IT workforce,” adds the Adobe representative.

He says that because Adobe is among the few companies in Romania that offer this benefit, it sees its impact which differentiates it on the local labour market. “This benefit allows us to access the top 5 percent of the best candidates on the market. We at Adobe offer a complex and diversified package of extra-salary benefits for our employees, not just financial ones but especially those related to work-life balance. As a cumulative effect of these benefits, our personnel turnover is under 5 percent,” says Radu. Working one day a week from home, a flexible work program depending on the project, encouraging an active sporting life and a friendly working environment are among the facilities and benefits that Adobe offers its employees in order to provide them with a balanced lifestyle.

WELLBEING MEANS PREVENTION

Corporate medical subscriptions are among the most well-known and used perks that companies offer their employees, as part of their strategy to retain their workforce. “From our perspective, the wellbeing concept refers to prevention in the conditions of an active lifestyle. More than this, the mental comfort of employees given by the knowledge that they have a reliable medical partner for maintaining their health it is important for us,” say representatives of the private medical services provider Regina Maria. About 30 percent of the firm’s turnover was generated by corporate subscriptions at the end of last year.

As Regina Maria representatives say, the increase in demand for such medical subscriptions proves that Romanians are gradually starting to understand that it is much better to prevent than to treat. “The medical subscription remains the most popular benefit in the salary package and we see the preference for complex, premium corporate subscriptions that offer access to a complete range of medical specialities and medical tests, antenatal care, medical recovery, and access to well-known doctors in our network,” they say.

According to the company’s internal studies, corporate subscribers access medical services 2.5 times more often than those who have no such incentive, while its subscribers, be it SMEs or corporate go to the doctor eight times a year. “These stats show us that there is a significant need for this tool,” say officials. Corporate subscriptions include, in all cases, free of charge medical examinations, medical tests, discounts depending on the package, a dedicated medical advisor, medical hotline and access to electronic medical records. “Then, depending on the needs of each company and considering the specifics of each industry and the activity of the employes and their level of risk they are exposed to, we create customized offers,” add the Regina Maria representatives. In addition, the medical services provider has included in its portfolio subscriptions dedicated to start-ups.

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