Using Office Design to Promote Staff Well-Being

Here at Boxpod, we understand the importance of the workplace when it comes to employee well-being. And having a healthy and happy workforce is essential for any business to prosper. There are a number of factors that contribute to ensuring employee well-being, and some of them are related to the environment that they are in – the workplace.

Modern offices are now being designed with employee well-being in mind. Several factors must be considered, including the acoustics, temperature, the amount of natural light provided, making employees feel safe (especially in light of COVID), layout, and furniture.

Of course, all businesses have slightly different needs, but ensuring that their staff are fit and healthy is a thread that runs through them all.

With this in mind, here are some aspects that office designers in 2021 are considering, to aid with this need:

Acoustics

We have seen a major move in recent years towards open-plan offices, aiding in collaborative working, and helping to boost creativity. It is likely that in 2021, however, we will be seeing businesses stepping away from this, mainly due to COVID. Open-plan offices can be noisier and this can mean the raising of voices, especially amongst staff who are socially distanced, resulting in more of a focus on acoustics.

For some people, social distancing restrictions could mean a return to individual pods or separate offices, but some office spaces are looking for more of an acoustic effect through other means.

Noisy environments can affect employee health both physically and mentally, causing additional stress and loss in productivity – as well as some physical conditions such as heart disease and strokes.

Hard surfaces can elevate noise levels, so incorporating softer surfaces such as carpets is becoming popular. There is also the option of furniture that can soak up sound, helping to create a quieter working environment. Some businesses are using sound-absorbing room dividers, or acoustic spray on the ceilings to help to get the office acoustics to an optimum level.

Office Temperature

According to the HSENI, unless there is physical effort taking place, the workplace should be at a temperature of above 16°C and not exceeding a temperature that impedes an employee’s ‘thermal comfort’. This is not only important for the comfort of the employees but also can have a significant effect on their productivity.

It has been suggested that for optimum productivity, an office between 20°C and 23°C is best. Of course, every group of people will have different preferences, so a happy medium needs to be found.

There are some ways that this can be rectified. As some businesses relax dress codes, it can be easier for staff to dress appropriately according to their specific temperature preferences. Some design ideas can be used, including:

    • The addition of smaller, individual radiators which can be controlled by employees nearby according to how they feel
    • Incorporating flexible workspaces allowing for employees to move around according to what they are doing – and seeking the best environment for them – these can also be determined by the use of the space. For example, creative areas would normally be slightly warmer to allow energy for creativity
  • The use of thermal comfort apps whereby the temperature is automatically changed if a certain number of employees advise through the app that they are too hot or cold

Air Quality and Natural Light

Ensuring that an office has good air quality and plenty of natural light is also essential to staff wellbeing. Coming into 2021, we are seeing a trend for Biophilic design – incorporating the use of plants in the work environment. Plants not only make the environment pleasant, but they can also improve air quality. The addition of water features is another element to improving the work experience and boosting staff wellbeing.

Well-ventilated or purified air can have a significant impact on staff wellbeing and their productivity. The 2021 office is now often designed with air filtration or purification systems in-built. Keeping the office clean, installing air quality monitors, and reducing the use of harmful chemicals (for cleaning, for example) can also help.

Natural light can easily be incorporated with the substantial use of windows and skylights as well as mirrors inside the building to help to spread it into darker areas.

Safety

Health and safety are, of course, always an important factor in the wellbeing of staff. However, it has come far more into focus since the COVID-19 pandemic with employers realising that it is not only the presence of health and safety measures that is important but also the perceived idea that employees are safe.

Stress caused by feelings of being unsafe (whether real or perceived) can be detrimental to an employee’s wellbeing, and it is, therefore, important that employers not only ensure that their employees are safe, but also that they feel safe.

There are several ways that this can be incorporated into the building design. Some features include:

  • Automatic doors that don’t need to be touched to open or close
  • Layouts that enable one-way system flow
  • Contact-free lift technology
  • Increasing airflow
  • Distancing indications on the floor

Interior Design, Layout, and Furniture

The visual impact and layout of the office are also important to the wellbeing of employees. Everything from the colours that are chosen, to the need for ergonomic furniture, can have an impact. Red can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress – definitely something to avoid, whereas blues can aid in concentration, focus, and productivity.

Likewise, yellow is good for happiness and emotion – a great option for creative areas and green stimulates feelings of balance, tranquillity, and is a good option for financial teams.

Office layout can also have an important impact. Ensuring that people are distant enough for social distancing and so to not always disturb each other is important, but for some businesses, the ability to converse and discuss ideas without disrupting everyone is also important.

Ensuring that you have adequate technology to allow for remote working, virtual meetings, and excellent communication is also extremely important.

Final Thoughts

As we begin to understand better about the impact of staff wellbeing, it is more important than ever that this is incorporated into modern office design. There is always new technology that can help commercial property owners get towards the goal of making the premises as employee-friendly as possible, and if this can be engaged, it will be a benefit to everyone.

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