Written by Tracey Holloway, Director of quality and standards, Office Space in Town.

The social or ‘S’ element of ESG is its most intangible aspect. Often social impact is considered difficult to measure, simply because it is not as instantaneous as some of the other initiatives businesses can undertake to increase their ‘E’ and ‘G’ credentials.[1]

Despite the apparent difficulties of delivering on the ‘S’ in ESG, companies should not ignore their social impact, because it reflects the satisfaction and wellbeing of their workers. Cardiff businesses are no exception. Last year, Cardiff office transactions were up almost 90% compared to the previous year, but there was a catch – more than 50% of office space was for grade A space, which typically has high ESG ratings.[2] In this regard, flexible offices are proving to be a major leader, and can help businesses to develop robust social strategies that support the needs of current and future workforces.

The next generation of workers coming through the Welsh capital will be seeking out companies that share their ESG values, with Cardiff university notably listed as the number one university in the UK for sustainability.[3]

Flexible offices and employee satisfaction

Flexible working has become increasingly popular in a post-pandemic world – a recent government survey revealed that 6% of UK workers left their jobs last year due to a lack of flexible working options.[4] This percentage represents over 2 million workers and is indicative of a recent surge in popularity for flexible working provisions.

For businesses looking to improve their social credentials, this rise of flexible offices has tremendous potential for employee satisfaction. A flexible working style offers business and teams greater control and the ability to direct their workloads in ways that suit them best. Smaller breakout rooms with fit-for-purpose décor allow employees to work cooperatively or individually, depending on personal choice – enabling them to feel more satisfied and craft their ideal working experience.

Furthermore, tailored plans offered by flexible workspaces support each employee’s unique ways of working. Provisions such as pay-as-you-go meeting rooms and adjust day offices – where companies can choose when they rent their workplaces – allow businesses to embrace remote working, without forfeiting capital on unused floorspace. Consequently, by moving to a flexible office, companies can better support those workers who – due to personal circumstances – work better remotely. The most forward-thinking businesses understand the value that flexible offices can have in addressing worker satisfaction – particularly pertinent due to the rise of job hopping, with over 26% of workers planning to change jobs within the next year, a rise of 7% from 2022.[5]

Flexible offices and employee wellbeing

Assessing the social impact of a business is not just a matter of employee satisfaction. While flexible offices offer a range of benefits, arguably of most importance is the positive impact flexible working spaces can have on people’s wellbeing. Workplace mental health is rapidly becoming an important issue, but one that is being unevenly addressed. 46% of UK businesses saw rising mental health issues amongst employees last year, which highlights how ubiquitous employee wellbeing has become.[6] This should result in a rising sensitivity toward mental health; yet, in Wales workplace mental health seems to be overlooked, with two in five employees admitting that they would be uncomfortable discussing mental health diagnosis with their boss.[7]

If Cardiff businesses are to destigmatise mental health in the workplace, change must be made to help employees feel more supported. Working remotely allows individuals to cut out the commute and spend more time with their loved ones; but, for many the heightened virtual interaction can encourage feelings of isolation. By contrast, a flexible workplace, which allows staff to split their time between the home and the office, fosters team building and worker engagement while retaining the freedom of remote working. Flexible offices are often home to several different businesses, which gives people the opportunity to be involved in community and social initiatives, such as volunteer days, quiz nights or charitable food drives – helping employees to feel engaged and part of a vibrant, supportive workplace. At a time when over half of the UK workforce (61%) report that they are exhausted and stressed during the workday, it is clear that Cardiff businesses cannot afford to ignore employee wellbeing when assessing their social impact.[8]

There’s no doubt that it remains difficult for a business to gauge how well they’re doing on the ‘S’ side of ESG. Indeed, the difficulty of analysing social impact can be understood as the reason behind why it has been neglected in current ESG adherence. That being said, businesses should take a proactive approach to assessing their social impact, because it gives insight into how the business operates, and most crucially how they treat their employees. This is a challenging process, but for Cardiff businesses, the rising prevalence of flexible offices offers a unique opportunity to transform their workspaces and improve their social credentials in the process.



[1] https://fortune.com/2023/06/23/the-s-in-esg-could-change-the-world-we-just-dont-know-how-to-measure-it/

[2] https://www.business-live.co.uk/commercial-property/office-take-up-cardiff-rebounds-26167076

[3] https://www.wales247.co.uk/cardiff-met-is-number-one-university-in-the-uk-for-sustainability

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/millions-to-benefit-from-new-flexible-working-measures

[5] https://fortune.com/2023/06/21/gen-z-millennial-employees-job-hopping/

[6] https://hrnews.co.uk/nearly-half-of-uk-bosses-see-an-increase-in-workplace-mental-health-issues/

[7] https://www.walesonline.co.uk/special-features/mental-health-stigma-workplace-wales-24697873

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/jul/23/people-at-increased-risk-of-burnout-due-to-more-demanding-workdays-tuc-says