Office trends, from open plan to ping-pong tables come and go, but the one thing that doesn’t change, one way or the other, is the impact that the office environment has on employee health and wellbeing.
Basically, it makes sense that the better and cleaner the working environment, the better the staff productivity, recruitment and retention.
There is even an organisation that has established requirements to create productive and comfortable indoor environments. The WELL Building Standard™ suggests a set of standards for buildings, interior spaces and communities seeking to implement, validate and measure features that support and advance our health and wellness – focusing on seven areas of building performance: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, mind and comfort.
The quality of air within an office can significantly impact on employees’ health and productivity, so make sure there’s a no-smoking policy, clean using green products where you can, open windows and add indoor plants for air quality.
Drinking enough water improves sleep quality and energy levels, our ability to focus and our general alertness. Make sure that you provide drinking water – perhaps a water cooler – and make sure staff know why it’s a good idea to drink it.
If, as the employer, you have any control over what and how employees eat, then try to do your best for them. Encourage good eating habits, actively promote healthy food options and encourage mindful eating so they can benefit from your efforts – and make sure that the cleaning up process is clear and adhered to.
When it comes to light, could you add skylights? Is glare controlled enough? Has natural lighting been maximised? Does anything you can move block the sunlight? Do any flickering lights need replacing? Would dedicated ambient and task lighting help people?
Obviously, an individual’s personal fitness is not their employer’s responsibility. But we all know that sitting down all day is not ideal – and again, activity leads to productivity, so help them be active. Consider a cycle to work scheme; make sure that stairs are accessible and encourage use of them. What about adjustable or standing workstations? Not all of these may be feasible or desirable – but it’s worth thinking about.
Think about how the design of your office can support mindfulness and wellbeing. Natural features can really help so consider whether you could add green plants or even living walls. Maybe an outside space – or staff garden area – is possible and give staff flexibility on where and how they work.
Make the workplace as comfortable as you can, even on as simple a level as seats and desks. Have a combination of quiet zones and breakout zones to encourage creativity. And keep it clean and tidy. Any office environment can become filthy if it’s not cleaned regularly and a dirty building is an unpleasant place to be. Not only that, a lot of time is wasted when you have to sift through piles of paperwork to find what you need, not to mention the stress generated by clutter and dirt.
If you try to optimise employees’ surroundings research shows that it will positively influence health, wellbeing, employee satisfaction, and performance.