The last 18 months has seen the working environment change beyond recognition – and that’s a very good thing says Vince Brooks of Engage Workplace, an office design company based in Plymouth, Devon. He explains in this guest blog why he believes that the office environment can have a real impact on employee health and wellbeing and it’s more important than ever that employers go the extra mile to improve their workspace offering.
Engage Workplace is a business that fuses office design, refurbishment and fit out, leadership, change management and employee engagement into one service. Through strong relationships with our partners and suppliers we deliver engaged and motivated workplaces that have a profound impact of the wellbeing of employees.
The pandemic hit most businesses hard and for some, it’s still a struggle. People were forced out of their communal work space and into the home; office, dining room, spare bedroom or even garden shed. But now, as things ease into some semblance of normality, not all of us are back to work in the same way. So many businesses are allowing more home-working and flexibility but it does mean that employers are having to put careful consideration into the work space they provide to ensure that everyone is safe and happy.
We spend a significant chunk of our day and lives working. Around a third, in fact. So it’s incredibly important that our surroundings promote both physical and mental wellbeing; this means considering everything from temperature and brightness to the tidiness and layout. It cannot be underestimated how much these factors affect mindset and productivity.
Here are five ways to ensure that the office environment affects your mood positively.
Introduce plants to the office. You can do this with individual plants, ‘living walls’ of plants and even plants that work well as a natural divider. Not only are plants lovely to look at but they also improve your air quality thanks to their ability to purify the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Biophilia is the human desire to seek connections with nature, so bringing plants into the office also promotes a greater sense of wellbeing in your employees.
An agile workspace is designed around the idea that dynamic, flexible spaces allow people to move freely around the office depending on what they are working on, with whom and what is required of them: areas for brainstorming, for collaboration, for peace and quiet and for meetings. This has been an emerging trend for the last few years, but has been highlighted by the pandemic as we search for new ways to come back to work safely with our colleagues. Employers need to understand changing expectations and goals of employees; hybrid workplaces consider remote and in-person work and an environment that supports and empowers workers, fostering a shared sense of belonging and purpose.
Lighting is paramount to our circadian rhythm and ability to perform effectively. For example – how much natural light will your employees get each day? A lack of sunlight can cause depressed mood leading to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Equally, glare and heat can cause irritation and distraction.
Exposure to noise sources can have a profound affect on wellbeing and should be adaptable according to each individual. For some, a radio in the background, the sound of traffic on the street or chatter in the office can be a comfort. For others it can lead to tension, mental disturbance and irritation.
Efficient partitioning, the option for sound booths, sound-masking systems and separate rooms to escape to, can all provide options for workers to choose the best environment for their particular task.
Comfort, usability and ergonomics support both the physical body and overall mental wellness of an individual. It can be influenced by everything from the height of the desks, to the shape and positioning of the chairs, whether you can sit or stand, move or stretch.
The most important consideration is that individuals can move freely and feel comfortable throughout their working day.
The future of work and our workplaces looks very different to what it was just a few years ago. Companies that offer their staff carefully considered, well balanced, healthy and attractive places to work, will attract and retain the best staff. Building wellness and wellbeing into the workplace, especially post-pandemic, has never been more important.