Weight measuring tape

If you run a business and employ people, staff wellbeing should be your top priority. If you fail to give it the attention it deserves, morale, productivity and your profitability is likely to suffer. But what defines wellbeing and why is it so important to consider this prior to undertaking an office design and fit-out?

Wellbeing is a combination of the physical, personal, social, cultural and economic effects of the workplace on its employees. Dictionaries simply define it as ‘welfare’, we like to think of wellbeing as a state of mind - it allows you to be who or what you want to be - a platform for inner-effectiveness.

To enable wellbeing to thrive, it’s important to have workspaces your employees can engage with and feel comfortable in.

A poorly-designed workspace can inhibit creativity, performance, engagement and innovation. So if you’re planning to move to a new location or simply change your office space, be aware of the wellbeing triggers and how to incorporate them into your design and fit-out. Below are the 10 elements we believe merit consideration as they contribute to wellbeing in the workplace.

  1. Know your vision and values. Does your office design and fit-out brief reflect your company’s culture and brand values? Is it a collaborative culture with philanthropy at its core? Are the brand values historical, perhaps they were formed over time? Have they come from the board room or do they reflect a wider cross-section of views? Engage with employees before writing a brief – it gives an insight into current wellbeing levels and feedback on how to enhance them. Greater collaboration also ensures less resistance to change as employees will feel part of the process.
  2. Work smarter. In order to maximise the workspace, undertake some form of due diligence so you know how it’s being used now and how it can work more efficiently in the future. Consider everything that touches those five senses. This may involve looking at workflows and patterns, sizes and locations of teams, desk ratios, use of technology and meeting rooms, facilities for mobile workers and provision of support/recreational spaces. A workspace that meets business needs, yet reflects the individuality of those within it, will be more efficient and morale-boosting.
  3. A room with a view. World Green Building Council research suggests workers who have outside views are likely to be up to 25% more productive and process calls 12% faster. Exposure to natural light increases productivity by 18% and better lighting in general pushes up work rates by 23%.
  4. Support systems. The Council estimates improved air quality and ventilation increase productivity by up to 11% and thermal comfort by 3%. Even plants have a role to play – they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. By addressing these fundamentals, you’ll reduce the number of Sick Building Syndrome symptoms (headaches, eye, nose or throat irritations, dry cough, itchy skin, fatigue and difficulty in concentrating) and enhance your BREEAM and SKA environmental assessment ratings. BREEAM globally identifies best practice in sustainable building design, construction and operation and SKA is run by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
  5. Noise, acoustics and privacy. Noise is an unwanted distraction and a major cause of employee dissatisfaction, yet it can be easily addressed through design and furniture solutions. Is the middle of an open plan office the best place for a team answering client calls? Who really wants a steady stream of people walking past their desk each day? Insightful design such as individual booths for private calls or work requiring high concentration levels and quiet spaces to break away from an open plan environment can minimise stress.
  6. Put some colour in your life. Colour, art, greenery and outdoor space are all wellbeing contributors so don’t overlook the aesthetics (even offices without outdoor spaces can give the illusion they have them).
  7. Fit for work. The British Council for Offices says 45% of workers complain they have a stressful journey to the office. Reduce those stress levels by encouraging exercise. Install cycle racks, a shower, changing room and lockers (and increase your environmental rating).
  8. Five a day. Provide those who had to endure the daily commute with a breakfast or juice bar, somewhere to prepare food, a daily fruit bowl or discounted gym membership at lunchtime. Is there a break-out or relaxation area?
  9. Ergonomics. Get Britain Standing reports workers sit for an average of 8.9 hours per day – for many that’s longer than sleeping! Sitting at a desk for longer than four hours a day causes stiffness, back pain and muscular problems, and it can disruptblood sugar levels. Staff using standing or adjustable desks, sit stand stools or chairs and balance boards report less muscular pain, more energy and a greater focus. Consider workspace movement. Punctuate the space and buy appropriate furniture to address a sedentary lifestyle.
  10. On the move. For most workers, there is no 9 to 5, technology and constantly being connected, has put paid to rigid working hours and a set work place. Flexibility to work from home, on the move or in an office is crucial so ensure the design and fit-supports activity based working. Consider differing environments such as quiet and multi-media rooms, stand-up work stations, desks and telephone booths, plus that all-important fast wireless connection.
We’re naturally resistant to change, so having identified the wellbeing triggers, carried out background research, engaged with all stakeholders, created the brief and given the go-ahead, don’t be tempted to change direction based upon a negative comment from others. A reputable workplace consultant will ‘get under the skin of your business’, spend time understanding your culture and vision and design a workspace that incorporates your brand and promotes that all-important sense of wellbeing. The process will be wholly- collaborative, so hold your nerve and be confident in your decision making.

Wellbeing is fundamental to productivity and will impact on your overall business results. We believe there are no hard and fast rules; it’s about looking at the space, furniture, the finishes, your values and the human and physical boundaries. We like to work in partnership, understand your needs, nurture and explore ideas and encourage the communication of workspace change to all stakeholders.

By Gary Chandler, Regions Managing Director at Area Sq