Martin O’Rourke, Commercial Director at Birchwood Park, the largest single-owned out of town business park in the North West, discusses warehouse-based working, employee wellbeing and the recent shift in expectations from workers.
AN OVERWHELMED WORKFORCE
In the age of e-commerce and industrial growth, there has been a rising demand for warehouse space and, subsequently, warehouse workers which are, typically, high in demand and short in supply. Traditionally, workers in warehouses were required to meet difficult targets, meaning fewer breaks and longer shifts. Although warehouse work is not the only type of labour where staff would experience feeling overwhelmed or under pressure, it is usually more physically demanding than an office job, with workers constantly walking between aisles, stocking shelves and managing inventory.
Statistics show that the average number of employees near retirement age (from 50 to 64) in the logistics, transport, and manufacturing sectors is higher than the average for other sectors*. Too frequently, working conditions have become a barrier for those considering a warehouse job, as extreme temperatures, poor quality space and common areas, no parking or transport connections, and safety issues continue to dissuade millennials, who are more likely to prioritise health, wellbeing, and lifestyle.
TEAMS EXPECT MORE
With more and more business-savvy companies realising that staff retention is key, there has been a shift in expectations, with companies no longer looking for traditional industrial parks to host their warehouse space. Quality space is becoming a priority and new workplace requirements such as chill-out zones and social areas are starting a new “industrial revolution”. Businesses are also aware that the new generation of workers entering the workplace has different expectations; so, to thrive in today’s climate and recruit and retain good quality, skilled warehouse workers, businesses need to provide the best environment for employees and place a greater emphasis on wellbeing in the workplace.
A recent study conducted by our team at Birchwood Park has found that despite a clear shift towards better ways of working, 66% of employees still feel companies don’t currently do enough to address mental health issues at work. The majority (88%) of respondents felt that even the smallest of changes brought into the workplace would be beneficial; those surveyed listed more flexible working hours (86%), mindfulness sessions (58%), free fruit and healthy snacks (56%) and more green spaces (41%) as ways in which employers could look to improve the mood and motivation of their teams.
Before the pandemic, research from health and wellbeing experts for businesses, Westfield Health, revealed that 52% of workers in the logistics sector still felt like not enough was being done to tackle employee wellbeing**. Fast forward a few months, we have seen employee health and wellbeing become an even bigger priority to employers, especially to those who have staff working in warehouses who haven’t been able to work from home.
The truth is that warehouses are busy, and very often, challenging working environments. That’s why at Birchwood Park we have taken on board occupier experience and feedback to help us deliver exactly what businesses are looking for. Workforces in industrial units shouldn’t have to suffer poor quality space and amenities.
We believe that being situated within expertly landscaped surroundings, with excellent transport links, and access to a range of high-quality amenities on offer such as a gym, nursery, and all day eat and meet facilities, we are able to add quality of life to those who choose to work in a warehouse setting, whilst improving staff retention and boosting business results.