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Inject well-being into your workplace

Inject well-being into your workplace

Much has been written about workplace health and well-being over the last year. Most of it has been focused on COVID-19 safety and attracting workers back to the office. Evoke Projects looks at the bigger picture of workplace design solutions that promote good health and lead to higher productivity through the experience and amenities offered to staff. After all, there is so much more to our health than a bottle of sanitiser and a plexiglass screen.

Holistic approach to health and well-being

Our holistic health covers both our wellness and well-being. Although we tend to use the terms interchangeably, wellness is focused around our physical and mental health, while well-being also includes our satisfaction and fulfilment. Both are affected by the design of our workplace.

How workplace design priorities have changed

Once upon a time, the interior design focus was on utilising every centimetre of space so that not a cent was wasted on real estate costs. The technology revolution saw a change in focus towards visually appealing workplaces to attract the best talent. Over the last few years, there has been growing awareness that an employee’s total experience at work is the key to motivation, productivity and talent retention. Health and well-being are pivotal to this experience. Now office designers have mastered the COVID-19 health aspects of their workplace design during the past year, they are once again looking at more holistic workplace well-being objectives.

A happier workplace leads to higher productivity

In the first study showing causal evidence of the relationship between productivity and happiness from randomised trials and piece-rate working, the University of Warwick in the UK reported a 12 per cent increase in productivity when people are happy. It is difficult to be happy if you are not healthy.

Healthy best practice WELL certification

For businesses that wish to follow best practice workplace design, the WELL Building Standard v2 is a roadmap for ‘creating and certifying spaces that advance human health and well-being. Developed over 10 years and backed by the latest scientific research, WELL sets pathways for accomplishing health-first factors that help every one of us to do our best work and be our best selves by supporting our physical and mental health across 10 core concepts.’ There are ten concepts in WELL v2: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind and Community.

Employee autonomy

Flexible working, flexible spaces, employee choice – you know the drill! If one thing was learned during the pandemic, it is that productivity improved when employees had flexibility and autonomy. Anti-working-from-home managers became converts. Hybrid working is the new norm and maintaining employee autonomy in that working model is vital to fostering motivation.

Also consider the multi-generational and multi-cultural workforce in your office design. Creating a mix of collaborative, quiet and breakout zones throughout the office fit-out offers scope for a variety of aesthetic appeals as well as flexible functionality.

Ergonomic office design

Poor workstation posture leads to fatigue at best, chronic injury at worst. Every employee needs access to a good quality adjustable chair and ideally a height adjustable desk for sit-stand work options. Height adjustable desks can be located in ‘hot desking/desk for a day’ areas of the office if the budget does not permit a wider office fit-out of new desks. Movement and exercise could also be promoted through a lunchtime walking group, walking meetings or a yoga session in the boardroom.

Also consider the office design and physical environment for staff that work from home. Not everybody has a spare room to convert to an office. An employee’s daily life can be challenging if they are working at the family dining table and sharing the home internet with teenagers consuming Netflix and Xbox. Advice and financial assistance towards an ergonomic home office would certainly improve their physical environment.

Biophilic design inside and out

The benefits of connecting with nature during the workday have been well documented. Biophilic design inside the workplace includes fresh air, natural light, green walls, natural textures and artwork that invokes nature. Biophilic workplace design can also be incorporated into outdoor offices that accommodate breakout time, quiet work and meetings or brainstorming sessions. Working outdoors is not enough to equal biophilic design; other natural elements should be included in the outdoor office design.

Sustainability initiatives

Materials used during a workplace fit-out should be sustainable and non-toxic. Recycling in the office has hopefully moved beyond just printing on both sides of the paper – look for initiatives to show staff how committed you are to ‘doing your bit’. It makes everyone feel good, which is another tick towards better workplace well-being.

Healthier air

We have all become a lot more interested in workplace air-conditioning systems over the past year. Office designs that include advanced air filtration systems lead to a healthier workplace. Where an office fit-out is on the cards, consider a displacement ventilation system (where old air is taken by vents in the ceiling while fresh air is delivered through the floor). This is a positive news story that will make employees feel valued and safe.

Healthy eating at work

Healthy eating makes a difference to our health and well-being. We all know that food is more than just fuel so discourage eating while working so that people enjoy their food mindfully.

The WELL Building Standard encourages the availability of fresh, wholesome foods and limits unhealthy ingredients for better eating habits and food culture. If you provide food to employees through a cafeteria or canteen, the WELL Building Standard has many other features to aim for. Please visit their website for more information or talk to Evoke Projects before your next office fit-out or office refurbishment.

Creating a mindful environment

Being able to focus on the ‘here and now’ is a skill that can improve our mental health. It also improves our work performance by maximising concentration on a task. An office design that evokes mindfulness might include the calming colour blue, smooth architectural lines, space and storage to hide unnecessary clutter.

Unwind and connect

Some downtime during the day is good for mental health. Create a welcoming and comfortable area in the workplace design and fit-out where staff can look forward to unwinding. As well as soothing the soul, employees will return to their next task with renewed enthusiasm and higher capacity for quality work. This space can also function as a place to connect and interact with colleagues, providing a much-needed sense of community. Working from home and hybrid working patterns require a concerted effort to maintain social connections amongst staff.

For more information on workplace designs that promote wellness and well-being, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.

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