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How can your office design promote workplace wellbeing?

As we recently reported, the UK has been ranked amongst the least active countries in the world.

On top of the findings in the World Health Organisation report, the latest 2018 Cigna 360° Well-Being Survey also confirmed the UK’s depressing position in terms of wellbeing.

In fact, only 9% of employees said that their organisation had a wellbeing programme.

As part of our occupational health services, we help organisations to create workplace wellbeing strategies that improve work processes, create a culture of open dialogue with staff and generally support the physical and mental health of employees.

But the layout and design of the workspace can also help to improve health and wellbeing at work.

Wellbeing at Work and Office Design

Reception area of S3 Advertising's new office

S3 Advertising offices. Source - Paramount Interiors

In 2017, we wrote an article for office design and fit-out experts, Paramount Interiors about the relationship between office design and staff absence.

Since workplace wellbeing is an important focus for many organisations, we thought we’d ask Helen Bartlett, Design Director at Paramount Interiors, to return the favour and give us some of her thoughts on how office design can complement a company’s wellbeing at work strategy.

A live, play and work place

When it comes to wellbeing at work, there is no 'one size fits all'.

No two businesses are the same and the lines that used to exist between live, work and play have not only blurred but almost entirely disappeared.

Understandably, each organisation will focus on one of these aspects more than the others.

Since companies in the technology and creative sectors focus on the play aspect of a workspace, their offices tend to grab more headlines.

However, maintaining a healthy work/life balance is just as if not more important to many businesses.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the creativity of the sleeping pods in Google’s offices.

An employee using a sleeping pod at Google's offices in California

A MetroNaps sleep pod at Google’s head office in California. Photograph: Alamy

And while the negative effects of sleep deprivation are well known, solutions like these will only be a small part of a wider wellbeing strategy.

There are more fundamental aspects that should be tackled first.

The four elements of designing for wellbeing

There are a number of areas in the design and layout of a workplace where a company’s wellbeing at work strategy can be reflected. These can be broken down into four distinct elements:

  • Working Environment
  • Physical Health
  • Mental Health
  • Technology

Staff should be able to control their working environment, from changing the temperature to choosing the space that best suits their needs; be it a hot desk in an open-plan office or private, enclosed room.

A row of multi-coloured hot desks and high chairs

Hot desks at Qualifications Wales offices. Source - Paramount Interiors

Improving staff’s physical health can boost productivity and reduce staff absences. You can do this by offering plenty of natural light, encouraging movement in the workplace, providing sit/stand desks or even an onsite gym.

Woman sitting at a sit/stand desk

Sit/stand desk at Datapipe offices. Source - Paramount Interiors

Companies can focus on their employee’s mental health by featuring more artwork in the workplace and introducing natural design elements, such as indoor plants and living walls or using tactile surfaces like wood and stone. Employees should also be able to access areas for contemplation and relaxation.

Living wall at the Life Sciences Hub in South Wales

Living wall at Life Sciences Hub Wales. Source - Paramount Interiors

The latest technology can be used to bring people together rather than push them apart. Everything from improved Wi-Fi and wearable devices to environmental sensors and productivity and health apps can be used to make the working day a little easier.

State-of-the-art multi-media pod at the Life Sciences hub, South Wales

Life Sciences Hub Wales Multi-Media Pod. Source - Paramount Interiors

And you could even start to see the likes of augmented and virtual reality, as well as AI and machine learning in the workplace of the future.

Embracing wellbeing

We’ll only start to see these kinds of office design trends when businesses fully embrace the concept of wellbeing in the workplace.

Despite the figures quoted at the beginning of this blog, employee wellbeing research conducted by Punter Southall and REBA found that, while less than a third of organisations in 2016 said that they had a defined wellbeing strategy in place, this had increased to almost 50% in 2018.

By the early 2020s, it’s hoped that more than three-quarters of UK companies will have a defined mental health strategy.

By then, we’ll also hopefully start to see more organisations reflecting their occupational health and wellbeing strategy in the design and layout of the workplace.

 

If you’d like to find out how the team at Fusion can help your business create an occupational health and wellbeing strategy, get in touch today.

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Categories: Choices for WellbeingHealth & WellbeingOccupational Health

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