Designing your office with employee wellbeing in mind can be an inexpensive but effective way to boost productivity and engagement.
From health screenings and free vaccinations to gym subscriptions and bike loans, wellness initiatives are now a vital component of leading HR practitioners’ strategic toolkits. Although these initiatives are welcome, and undoubtedly well-intentioned, they often overlook the one thing that could impact on our wellbeing the most: the physical space we work in. We spend more waking time in our workplaces than anywhere else, so why wouldn’t they affect our wellbeing?
Research shows that offices designed with wellbeing in mind can play a crucial role in improving job performance, employee engagement, recruitment and retention, and in reducing absenteeism. Injecting wellness into your workspaces is an investment in your people – one that can be inexpensive and highly effective. Here are six ways to make your workspace healthier and more productive.
- Keep people active
Various studies have linked regular exercise to lower sickness rates and higher job performance, so creating an exercise-friendly workplace seems like an obvious first step. This could be as simple as offering standing desks to anyone who wants one, or encouraging people to use the stairs with a few carefully thought-out signs and a lick of paint. You could also install showers and lockers so those who walk or bike to work – and those who work out at lunchtime – can shower.
- Buy some office plants
Research suggests that having plants in your workspace can improve productivity, increase concentration and make you happier and less stressed. Although it’s probably the cheapest recommendation on this list, adding a plant to your desk will do wonders for your health. Certain plants can even filter out toxins from the air and improve humidity levels, making them the perfect natural air conditioner.
- Get the temperature right
Temperature has a significant impact on workplace satisfaction and is one of the most common causes of complaints among office workers – but there are ways to get ahead of such issues. You should make sure that reasonable staff complaints are reported to the management company promptly and that any issues (such as drafty windows, vents blowing excess cold air and hot spots) are delivered in writing.
- Let in some daylight
Daylight has a major influence on our mood and general mental health. If possible, everyone should work with some natural light – or at least have access to naturally lit common areas. Fluorescent lighting is no longer the only choice for overhead lighting. For example, modern LED systems enable you to adjust light intensity and colour throughout the day. Try to customise lighting based on tasks – this can make working much easier on the eyes.
- Bring in fresh air
A well-ventilated office, which has low levels of indoor pollutants and carbon dioxide, can significantly improve cognitive function and reduce illness (for example, from respiratory ailments). Productivity improvements of between 8 and 11 per cent are not uncommon as a result of better air quality. Choose improved paints and materials, such as carpets, that do not emit toxins, and check that ventilation and air filtration are adequate. In most cases, the landlord has lease obligations to ensure working heating and ventilation systems.
- Make it comfy
A large body of research has been done about the impact of office chairs, desk height, keyboard trays and appropriate phone usage on employee comfort and health. Companies should give thought to furniture design and how it fits the needs of employees and their work habits. Working with a consultant specialising in ergonomic design will reduce days away from work and hours of productivity lost to discomfort. At a minimum, survey your staff to assess what they need to be more comfortable and make sure they know how to adjust their furniture.
Beth Ambrose, Personnel management, 5 Sep 2016