Our health and well-being have been put into the spotlight in recent years. Equally, where we choose to work has been thrown into flux. The pandemic has a lot to answer for – but maybe it is not all negative. COVID has encouraged us to consider how we live our lives and how we choose to work. For employers, the adaptations to the office go beyond choosing between cubicles and open plan spaces, beanbags, or coffee shops. There are genuine questions about whether the office needs to exist and for what purpose – and if you are bringing people into a central workplace – how do you keep them safe?
Hybrid working is likely to last into the future; all the trends suggest it is here to stay. People liked working from home. Coming into the office is now seen as an event, something to be done with a specific purpose. Therefore, employers have to consider employee productivity and well-being in the design of a central workplace and the advice they give in the design of the home office.
You can make many decisions to design your office space to help increase employee productivity and well-being. Indeed, offering paint advice to your professionals for their home office is a simple strategy. Bright colours encourage activity, and muted colours prompt reflection and calm. Every detail matters.
Here we explore the WELL building standard and how it might influence your and your employees’ office design.
Breathing is a fundamental human activity and impacts our physiology massively. It is clear that this statement is full of common sense, yet we often do little to monitor the air we breathe and ensure its quality.
Humid, recycled and allergen-filled air will reduce productivity. Humidity makes people lethargic. Recycled air, we are now acutely aware, encourages the spread of viruses. Allergens and dust can cause irritations that making working challenging.
There are all sorts of design choices you can make to improve this situation. You can obviously install a state-of-the-art HVAC system that replaces the air every 2 minutes. Alternatively, you can open windows and create a flow of fresh air from the outside.
To clean the air, you can again look to filters and other mechanical interventions. Yet, house plants naturally clean the air for us. Not only do they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, but they can also eliminate dust and other allergens from the air.
As well as air, we require sunlight to thrive. Historically, offices – including those in the home – have been a haven of artificial lights. While you can get bulbs that mimic the blue rays from natural sunshine, installing more windows is much better.
Why is it so important?
Without natural light, our mental well-being diminishes, and we can quickly become depressed. Natural light provides essential prompts to our brain’s receptors, as well as providing a healthy dose of vitamin D.
Artificial light causes headaches and, with the light from devices, can increase eyestrain. Having windows that let in light and give views into the distance, you can counter these effects. However, it is also a good idea to install blinds and shades to prevent too much exposure to glare.
Also essential to our physical and mental well-being is movement. Our offices keep us tied to our desks. The first décor decision relates to furniture. Realistically, investing in the best ergonomic chairs and other equipment can help people stay productive. Muscle and joint pain are common reasons to lose productive hours, especially back pain. Unison notes that 12 million hours are lost to back pain annually.
One of the ways you can encourage movement is by purchasing adjustable height desks. Sometimes it is a good idea to stand and sometimes sit, and the change in postural position aids the muscular-skeletal health of your workforce.
However, there are more ambitious choices you could make. Offering a gym and shower facilities not only make your workforce more productive, but they get the blood flowing to the brain and inspire greater energy levels. Employees’ concentration levels increase, and the sharpness of their decision-making will improve. More than this, they will lower stress levels and feel cared for by their employer, which will increase levels of motivation and loyalty.
As you spend upwards of eight hours in the office, it is fair to expect some comfort on offer. While we are not talking about sofas and soft furnishings, the right décor and home comforts are important. When setting up a home office, choosing the right furniture and plenty of storage make all the difference in the world to your desire to keep at it.
There is a lot of psychology in the choice of pictures for walls, paint colours and more. People can be made to feel relaxed and calm or stimulated and inspired by the small items of comfort you place around the office.
Equally, there needs to be a break-out area with more ambient lighting and a place to chat with colleagues. Human contact is still the best way to manage our mental health.
Mental well-being has come to the fore in recent years. People are stressed, anxious and depressed because they spend so much time under immense pressure. The Black Dog Institute states that mental illness will impact one in six of us to a degree it impacts our work. We become physically ill, absent ourselves from the workplace or leave our job altogether.
Bringing nature into the workplace can help and ensure there are water cooler moments too. Again, having a comfortable area where people can connect is essential. Importantly, for those choosing to work from home, having informal meetings is essential for helping blow off some steam.
It is common sense to say that our environment impacts how we feel and how well we perform. There is nothing mind-blowing in the advice here. Get some plants, let in some air, get that natural light and help people connect – and your workplace will flourish.
Laura McLoughlin is a Digital PR based in Armagh, Northern Ireland. She has previous experience as a website editor and journalist, and currently works with Paint Spray Tools.
Natural light stock photo by nymphoenix/Shutterstock