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UAE decking out offices to promote worker wellbeing

UAE wellbeing Reuters/Neil Hall
The Well Building Standard is a system certifying office space to promote employee wellbeing
  • Well Building Standard certifies good work conditions
  • Dubai office occupancy rising after remote work spell
  • Companies create corporate wellbeing job roles

The UAE is increasingly adopting building standards that meet employee demand for office conditions that enhance wellbeing.

The Middle East has witnessed a 24-fold increase in Well Building Standard adoption over the last 19 months, with a large majority coming from the UAE.

The Well Building Standard is an international system that measures, monitors and certifies a series of 10 features to promote occupant wellbeing: air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind and community.

Tekha Selim, vice president and head of the Mena region, at the International Well Building Institute (IWBI), said the UAE had “defined itself as a true leader of the region” through the global standards rating.

The UAE Prime Minister’s Office has achieved the Well health-safety rating for its Dubai office and is the first Well-certified government ministry office in the world. 

Dubai Land Department’s Real Estate Regulatory Agency has also officially adopted the Well health-safety rating.

Cameron Mehrabanpour, head of estates and facilities at Heriot-Watt University Dubai, another to have attained Well recognition, said its new campus was designed and built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (Leed) Gold standards, with “minimal financial implications” for the institution.

UAE wellbeingReuters/via handout from Cushman and Wakefield
Employee wellbeing is increasingly built into the design of office spaces

“The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the need for healthy indoor environments, making wellness-focused building standards like Well certification even more important,” Mehrabanpour said.

Over 500 million sq ft of real estate is enrolled in Well programmes across 16 countries in the Mena region, including the UAE, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Yemen.

“The Middle East is delivering on Well’s promise of improving human health and wellbeing in a way that helps individuals do their best work and be their best selves,” IWBI president and CEO Rachel Hodgdon said.

The average occupancy rate in Dubai’s office market reached 92 percent as of Q2 2023, according to CBRE Middle East, up from 84 percent a year earlier as more people return after working from home.

Aisha Amarsi, senior manager and HR recruiter at Hays Middle East, said employee wellbeing is a “growing phenomenon” in modern workplaces.

“Companies across the UAE are investing heavily in this area, so much so that new roles are being created whereby the focus is solely on corporate wellbeing,” she said.

Wellbeing initiatives include workspace pods, additional social spaces, breakout rooms and, in some cases, quiet zones.

“Factors such as ergonomic furniture, natural light, proper ventilation and quiet spaces contribute to physical comfort,” Amarsi said. 

“And well-designed workspace fosters collaboration, creativity and a sense of belonging, positively affecting emotional wellbeing.”