A review of the top five most successful business’s office spaces, looked at the top features these workplaces had in common, and found that a focus on health and wellbeing was at the forefront of their office design and office refurbishments.
The review found that offices with onsite facilities which helped to promote a healthier workplace environment, and which took account of employee’s health and wellbeing including physical and mental health; productivity and work-life balance led to a more enjoyable, productive, and profitable work environment.
Health and Wellbeing
Mind’s “How to promote wellbeing and tackle the causes of work-related mental health problems” resource backs up the top workplace features review and explains “Research consistently shows that when employees feel their work is meaningful and they are valued and supported, they tend to have higher wellbeing levels, be more committed to the organisation’s goals and, importantly, they perform better too. This strong relationship between levels of staff wellbeing and motivation and business performance is often called ‘employee engagement’.”
The report goes onto say that “FTSE 100 companies that prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10 per cent. By supporting staff wellbeing, they reap the benefits through enhanced morale, loyalty, commitment, innovation, productivity, and profitability. Open and supportive workplaces benefit everyone – employees, employers, and the bottom line.”
We know that “the built environment”, high noise levels, inadequate lighting, poor temperature control and indoor air quality, lack of privacy and work-life imbalance can all have an impact on staff health and wellbeing, but what office amenities rate the highest in promoting workplace health and wellbeing?
Office Design Features That Promote A Healthy Workspace
The following facilities were found to be the most common in the most successful business office spaces.
Outside Spaces / Breakout Areas
As human beings we have an inherent connection to nature known as biophilia (a love of nature). Given that we can spend eight or more hours at work each day, having access to an outside area where staff can go to relax and reduce stress, can help employees to get away from office noise and commotion and have a significant positive impact on employee health and improved mental wellbeing. An example of this is Google’s London Kings Cross HQ which has incorporated a 300 metre long rooftop garden which is divided into zones including a “pause area” with wildflowers and woodland plants and a 200 metre running track, into the building design.
Of course, not every business has the space or luxury of having an outdoor area. Where this isn’t possible an alternative solution is to have an indoor area which “mimics” an outdoor space e.g., Innocent, the drinks maker, had an open plan office area in Fruit Towers v2 which was carpeted with Astroturf and included a large picnic area. In their new headquarters they’ve continued this trend by incorporating grass on the floors and a vegetable patch on the roof.
Where space is limited, breakout areas can play a vital role in enabling staff to step away from their desks. Incorporating plants into these spaces can help staff reconnect with nature, reduce stress and improve health and wellbeing. Incorporating natural materials like wood, stone, slate and even water can also help to mimic and enhance a feeling of being outdoors. The same applies to colour, patterns, and textures. By mimicking what we see in nature our brains make a connection to the outside world and this can result in positive mental and physical benefits.
Onsite Café / Kitchen And Tea Points
Research carried out by Cornell University found that employees who eat together perform better as a team. Kevin Kniffin, the research author says “Eating together is a more intimate act than looking over an Excel spreadsheet together. That intimacy spills back over into work.” This is backed up by Forbes who state that “…Teams Should Eat Together If They Want To Bond” explaining that that food has historically played a crucial role in this bonding process saying “While food in many workplaces is something consumed as quickly as possible at one’s desk, it has traditionally been a means of welcoming strangers into a community.”
A cafeteria or café allows staff to gather in one place, in a more relaxed setting away from their desk. It brings people together informally and lets them socialise. These informal gatherings can lead to idea sharing and idea validation and help to naturally increase staff interactions and collaboration when staff return to their desks. Having an inhouse café also means staff don’t have to leave their workplaces and travel to another location, removing travel time and increasing their relaxation time.
If your business doesn’t have room for a cafeteria a small kitchen or tea point area can serve the same function and provide staff with a place they can eat, drink or come together to socialise.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officer Physical Activity Guidelines report states that adults should try to do at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
We know that regular exercise can provide many health benefits including reducing the risk of many diseases such as stroke, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and cancer. Research also shows that physical activity can improve mood, sleep quality, self-esteem, and boost energy, as well as reducing stress, depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Physical activity can also lower your risk of early death by up to 30%.
Having fitness facilities available to your staff will help them to improve their overall health and wellbeing which in turn will reduce healthcare costs and absenteeism. Where space is at a premium and an onsite fitness facility is not possible businesses could provide gym memberships or subsidise gym fees as a workplace health and wellness benefit.
Having a gaming area within your office space may seem like a misnomer and at odds with the workplace however research has shown that having space dedicated to encouraging staff downtime and physical activity can be very beneficial.
By giving staff a space to take short recreational breaks and focus on something other than work, it can help employees to relax and unwind. It can also help to bring staff together, encourage social interaction and team bonding.
We know that taking short breaks can improve work productivity. The BBC article “The tiny breaks that ease your body and reboot your brain” explains what may seem like a contrary idea – take a break to be more productive – “though the breaks are tiny, they can have a disproportionately powerful impact – studies have shown that they can improve workers’ ability to concentrate, change the way they see their jobs, and even help them avoid the typical injuries that people get when they’re tied to their desks all day.” Robert Pozen, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management further explains that “taking a break every 75 and 90 minutes is the period of time where you can concentrate and get a lot of work done. When people do a task and then take a break for 15 minutes, they help their brain consolidate information and retain it better.”
Staff health and wellbeing is important to all businesses and can be achieved no matter the size of the available office. JBH Refurbishments can help to plan your office space and design it to maximise its use for work and for health and wellness.
JBH Refurbishments, Experts In Office Design and Refurbishment
JBH Refurbishments have over 30+ years’ experience in office design and office refurbishment and fit outs. We can advise on all aspects of your Kent or London office refurbishment. To find out how we can help you contact us via our contact form or by calling us on 0333 207 0339.