In the UK, 83% of workers believe their wellbeing directly influences their productivity, leading to workplace wellbeing becoming a significant focus for companies. While new, innovative, flexible working policies may attract the most attention, the design of the office itself can still have an enormous impact on the productivity and wellbeing of your staff.

As flexible working initiatives continue to blur the line between open plan collaborative spaces and the work-life-balance and wellbeing of staff, how can companies improve their office space to enhance the wellbeing of workers while maximising productivity?

As the modern workplace changes, adapting to the wants and needs of the multi-generational workforce is critical. Today, 77% of UK organisations offer staff one form or another of a flexible working programme. By giving employees increased choice and mobility, businesses are beginning to reap the rewards. 65% of UK managers state that flexible working drives commitment and motivation, while 82% believe it improves productivity.
More and more, we’re seeing modern offices built with a universal design to accommodate the multi-generational workforce, with companies creating a mix of both quiet, dedicated workstations and co-working areas with hot-desking in mind. These mobile workstations are seeing rise to innovative ergonomic furniture designs such as the sit-stand desks, co-working benches and plug-in chairs – offering dynamic workspaces for their employees.

Companies such as Red Bull focussed on wellbeing within their office design, creating lounge styled areas that promote a relaxed and comfortable environment for staff, ultimately helping to reduce stress and anxiety. These flexible working spaces let businesses create open plan collaborative areas – offering their employee’s mobility within the workplace.

Flexible working includes access to a variety of working environments that best align to the task being undertaken and these are increasingly no longer dedicated to one individual’s use.”

Martin Laws, a partner at Deloitte real estate

In the UK, in 2018, businesses lost 26.8 million working days due to employee ill health according to HSE, with 26% UK workers citing work as the key reason for suffering from stress. Companies are working to reduce the impact ill-health and stress has on their workforce, with SMEs to large corporates beginning to prioritise not just the performance of their staff, but also their wellbeing – developing agile working behaviours with wellbeing in mind.

With 45% of workers noting stressful commutes as the primary driver for stress, some workplaces have started allowing staff with children or long journeys to work from home or change their hours outside of the standard 9-5. Other companies have introduced schemes to improve employee health, ranging from providing staff cycle racks in the office through to on-site gyms or well-being packages for staff with subsidised gym memberships while innovative tech giant Google has included sleeping pods in their California head office to combat the issue of sleep deprivation.

However, there are also other options available to enhance the wellbeing of your workforce. Innovative office furniture, designed with wellbeing in mind is seeing a rise in development. Gradually more studies are reporting on the negative issues attributed to being seated for long periods – with some studies claiming ‘sitting is the new smoking’. Ergonomic furniture designs allow companies to get their staff out of their seat with sit-stand and treadmill desks leading to new, creative workplace wellbeing ideas – most notably standing meetings.

Staff welcome flexibility. It’s when they feel they have to make trade-offs between their work and childcare commitments that productivity falls,”

Greg Jackson, founder and chief executive of Octopus Energy

Over the years, studies have found that including plants and natural light within the office can lead to significant benefits to employee wellbeing and happiness as well as productivity and creativity.
The University of Technology in Sydney conducted a study linking plants in an office environment to a 37% fall in tension and anxiety and a 58% reduction in depression. Additionally, natural light has been found to significantly improve the health and happiness of the workforce, with studies finding natural light reduces stress and increases happiness while leading to up to a 40% increase in productivity. With the increase in awareness over the years relating to mental health in the workplace, including plants and more natural light in your office could hold the key to a happier healthier workforce.

Apple is an excellent example of companies starting to invest in plants in the workplace, with its ‘Apple Park’ Headquarters in California containing over 10,000 trees. While Selgas Cano (an Architecture company) increased its employees’ interaction with nature, building its office space in the woods and partly underground to blend in with nature and companies such as Zoopla and Facebook, have implemented ‘living walls’ in their workspace.

These innovative ways of including plants in the office enable companies to capitalise on the health benefits while adding flair to their modern interior design.

For employers, it is important to raise the priority given to mental health and wellbeing to move towards a culture which proactively manages mental wellbeing.”

Deloitte

There are many cost-effective ways in which companies can enhance workplace wellbeing and the more that companies can invest in the wellbeing of staff through flexible, mobile areas that allow workers to keep active while carrying out their day-to-day job requirements, the better.

These simple ideas can lead to increased productivity amongst staff, reduced sick days and unplanned leave and ultimately, a happier, healthier and loyal team.

If your company is considering upgrading your office space, here is a checklist of ideas you could use to improve staff wellbeing:

New furniture to improve posture and comfort

Sit-stand furniture and meetings

Relaxation and chill-out spaces

Office design encouraging movement and collaboration

Introducing plants and nature into your offices

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