Wellbeing is becoming a buzzword in the workplace industry, and with reason – it is an essential component of the modern office and a real focus point for most businesses in 2019!
The workplace is not always a well-oiled machine, but studies have shown a clear correlation between wellbeing in the workplace and increased productivity. In other words, the way to a company's success is a happy office.
Now, this is all well and good for business owners looking to boost profits, but what about landlords and property managers? Do the cogs start turning even before the lease is signed?
The answer is yes. And wellbeing in the workplace is no accident. Just a carefully constructed puzzle where everyone in the industry – from the designer, through the landlord, to the end-user – plays a role.
All it takes a pinch of modern thinking, a great deal of commitment, and about 10 elements to get right.
1. Naturally lit
You can't always break a hole through the wall to let the sunshine in, but think about ways you can optimise your office layout so as to take maximum advantage of natural light.
A 2014 study from the Northwestern University of Chicago (one of many,) shows that daylight in the office boosts health and morale. As a result, employees with windows in the workplace report higher wellbeing.
Where possible, workstations should be located within 20 to 25 feet of side windows. Any further than that and daylight almost vanishes. And if your office space, or parts of it, is lacking windows, you can always opt for integrated lighting systems like Ketra to mimic natural light.
Gone are the days of the sedentary office. Flexibility is key in today's work environment. Employees like standing desks. They like having control over the layout of their workstations.
So how can the workplace adapt to its users' needs? Modular furniture is a place to start: breakout furniture that doubles up as an informal meeting space, portable furniture and reconfigurable systems to facilitate the process if a company changes location.
The office layout can be adaptive as well. Big hangar-like offices, for example, can benefit from mobile partition screens to be used according to the users' needs. Demountable partitions or folding walls are the perfect way to temporarily break up the space, or open it up for a large conference.
The more flexible the office is, the easier to implement changes it is. Anticipation is the watchword of the modern office.
3. Finely tuned
Bad acoustics are a by-product of busy open-plan offices. Unsurprisingly, noise is distracting and harmful to productivity.
What can you do?
Using sound absorbing materials in the workplace can provide significant acoustic relief; solutions vary from partitions and acoustic baffles to absorbent furniture and flooring. You can also go for decorative wall-mounted acoustic panels that come in every shape or form imaginable.
Beyond functionality, many decorative acoustic panels are designed with flexibility in mind: modular units, wall tiles in varying colours, shapes and sizes, and if the walls in your office are too busy, you can always opt for ceiling-mounted baffles a freestanding unit to double up as a divider.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of a good office branding is the opportunity to tell your story.
But strong branding can also make a real difference to a company's image. It is the face of a business. It makes it recognisable to clients and employees. And it boosts wellbeing in the workplace by making for an inspiring work environment where employees feel an emotional connection with their surroundings.
So much more than slapping a logo on a wall, strong office branding should reflect the corporate culture of the company and portray its values and identity.
A well-thought-out branding strategy also helps organisations stand out from the crowd and, if used in key spaces like the reception area, it can help make a great first impression upon clients and prospects.
5. Close to nature
Wellbeing in the workplace would hardly exist without the fresh use of greenery. Being close to nature has proven to have a positive impact on our mood, and with 35% of our total waking hours spent at work, a positive mindset sure is important.
So, what can you do to add greenery to your office? A simple living wall in the workplace can improve air quality and acoustic levels as well as promote a sustainable image that will speak to your green customer. If a living wall sounds too big an investment, evenly spread-out planters will help too.
Another way to bring the office closer to nature is by growing vegetables in the breakout area. Outlandish as it may seem, innovative products like Herbert make this very possible and effective.
From wind turbines and CO2 monitors to foam flushing toilets and treadmill desks, office buildings around the world are raising the bar for sustainability and innovation.
Billed as the most sustainable office building in the world – a good standard to match, we thought – The Edge (pictured below) boasts a sophisticated design which, coupled with the use of innovative technologies, resulted in an astonishing 98.36% BREEAM score.
Home to Deloitte's headquarters, the office building harvests rainwater to flush toilets and water its gardens. It also gives staff full control over temperature and light, both regulable via a smartphone app.
What's more, The Edge also produces its own energy through the use of 800 solar panels and its roof boasts a floor-to-floor scanner that detects when rooms are not being used, thus helping reduce electricity consumption.
If you hadn't guessed it, sustainably viable offices are not only good for morale, they're also good for business. Oh, and the environment, too.
We've talked about the importance of bringing the outside in. We've also seen how sustainable office design contributes to the general wellbeing of employees. But a happy office goes beyond green and eco-friendly - it must also promote a healthy way of working.
Developers can make a big impact here; it all starts with the relevant facilities. How about a gym at the office? If you include a gym, you will have to include showers. And locker rooms. And what about the increasing number of workers who cycle to work every day? They might need bike storage facilities indoors.
Smaller offices could negotiate memberships with local gyms or personal trainers. They can also join forces with other companies to chase a better deal with a larger fitness supplier.
The modern office needs technology to thrive. This can translate in the use of automation systems that allow users to control lighting, HVAC and even outdoor shutters for optimum lighting conditions.
High technology also shines through the integration of personalised lighting systems that challenge the one-light-for-all principle. In this instance, employees can control the overhead lighting in their immediate environment. All they would need for this is, you guessed it, a smartphone.
In large offices, gathering location data of all employees can help you determine which areas are more used than others. This information can be gathered through the use of tiny devices called beacons, and shared with the lighting department to help you run a 'greener' office.
For everyone's comfort, office furniture must be wired too. Plug-and-play workstations are trending in offices with limited space. Meeting rooms are equipped with built-in outlets. You get the gist.
After all, millenials don't have time to run out of power!
9. Filled with art
Art is a conversation starter. Made to engage with those who notice it, it is an intellectual asset that fosters interaction and critical thinking.
According to a 2013 research by the British Council for Offices, 61% of workers agree that artwork inspires them to think and work more creatively.
Corporate art is more than a socialising tool, however. It is also a strategic device that offers businesses financial benefits and marketing opportunities.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In recent years, this old proverb has weaved its way into the work culture where the importance of downtime has not only been recognised but also promoted.
More and more concerned with wellbeing in the workplace, companies are incorporating 'fun' in the office. Game rooms, ping pong tables and slides in lieu of stairs are no strangers to the work environment as forward-looking offices are slowly turning into carefully balanced playgrounds.
Unsurprisingly, breakout areas are also a key part of the fun. More than a simple room where staff can take five, breakout spaces are becoming fully integrated little hubs designed to foster creativity and collaboration while offering a space away from the screen. From relaxed, shared workspaces to impromptu meeting points, dedicated breakout spaces can also double as scenes for catered lunches, thus allowing companies to save on venue hire. Quite a few perks for one space!
A 'Workplace Wellbeing Special' would be incomplete without the mention or two about the future. While catering to the employees' present needs, a successful office space must also be able to anticipate their future needs. This means dynamic space planning, leaving room to grow and embrace change.
Embedding flexibility in the workspace is key. As previously mentioned, this can refer to adaptive furniture but it is also a reminder that people move too. And they should be encouraged to work in different settings.