Goldman Sachs’s 6,000-strong, London-based workforce is preparing to move into its lavish new headquarters, reports the Evening Standard, with the firm sparing not one iota of expense to house their highly pressured employees in a veritable palace of health and wellbeing. 
According to the paper, with total floor-space exceeding the dimensions of 26 football pitches, the 10-storey, £1.1 billion Plumtree Court contains a dazzling array of facilities to help top-flight finance execs grapple with the daily intensities of their professional lives. In addition to a health centre complete with GP and nursing staff – plus a full complement of physiotherapy, psychiatry and psychology practices – the HQ boasts:
- contemplation rooms for quiet time;
- a group-prayer and choir-practice room;
- resting rooms for workers who are stressed or unwell;
- a gym equipped with spinning bikes, cross-training apparatus, 60 treadmills, a yoga and pilates studio, and steam rooms;
- an underground cycle park for 455 bikes, plus showers and changing rooms;
- a lactation suite for new mothers, including breast pumps and fridges – and, to top it all off…
- a 7,000 square-foot nursery and play centre for workers’ children, including a water-play area, a technology classroom with wifi-enabled smartboard, a play kitchen, tricycles, two napping rooms and an art gallery for the young ones’ drawings.
The nursery is free for up to 20 days a year – or alternatively, parents can pay for their children to be enrolled on a full-time basis. Goldman Sachs International CEO Richard Gnodde told the Standard: “We are delighted to have built a world-class office for our people, enabling them to collaborate and serve clients in an efficient and attractive space.”
The largesse of the firm’s new offices recalls that behind the award-winning London HQ of Bloomberg, which opened in 2017 and went on to scoop last year’s RIBA-Sterling Prize for best new building. 
As well as being constructed to impeccable – indeed, pioneering – standards of eco-efficiency, Bloomberg’s £1.3bn, Norman Foster-designed berth contains sit-to-stand work stations for all staff, a six-floor central ramp to encourage movement through the building on foot, two cycle centres, multi-faith prayer rooms, a mothers’ room and a wellness centre including on-site health services.
All of which is fantastic. But not every organisation, to put it mildly, will have the sort of financial firepower that can pull together the almost Utopian facilities accessible to the Goldmans and Bloombergs of this world.
Do buildings such as these show that wellbeing is becoming a luxury item that most organisations can only dream of? Or are there services and/or initiatives that every organisation can put in place regardless of their spending power?
The Institute of Leadership & Management head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “The labour market has a set of persistent inequalities. The sorts of discrepancies that we see in areas such as access to work, rates of pay and benefits and pensions are echoed in other aspects of the employer-employee contract. It’s no surprise that the above two companies are two of the highest-paying employers in what is globally renowned as a high-paying industry. The scale and scope of employee benefits will be so much greater than what we would see among other employers in other industries.”
She notes: “What I particularly like about Goldman’s arrangements is the inclusion of a lactation suite. Plus, it’s interesting that the nursery is not 100% free – most likely because that is a very expensive benefit. But the idea that if you can’t provide these sorts of facilities, you are unable to take your employees’ wellbeing seriously, is flawed to say the least. How many gyms are there now that operate on a no-contract basis, with cheap, monthly rates? Meditation doesn’t cost anything. Neither does ensuring that people have time in the day to take a break away from their desks.
“Indeed, having rules such as ‘No food at your desks’ is a real wellbeing intervention. It means that people have to move away from their desks to eat, and may use that opportunity for some social interaction that will give their minds a chance to reset.”
Cooper stresses: “For employers, it’s a matter of cutting your cloth. It’s about the signals and messages that you send out to indicate that you take physical, mental and emotional health seriously. For example, employee assistance programme (EAP) lines are widely available – and, from what I understand, rather underused. But, as with any change-making initiative that organisations may want to put in place, the best people to get involved with developing a wellbeing policy are those who will be directly affected by its measures, or benefit from them: your staff.”
She adds: “You may have a low budget for wellbeing provisions. But a creative way of managing that budget – whereby it’s designed to impact the maximum number of workers, not just the small group of employees who want, say, regular five-a-side football – can pay huge dividends. Look at the demographics of your staff. Ask them what they do already to maintain their wellbeing. Ask them what they would like more of. And above all, be creative about how you send out a message to your workers that you care about their whole selves.”
For further insights on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s resources on the healthy workplace
Image of Goldman Sachs logo on a mobile phone screen courtesy of IgorGolovniov, via Shutterstock