Since 2005 the open office concept has been popularized and adopted by numerous organizations. The open office movement thought to promote collaboration and productivity has grown into something of a norm, largely influenced by industry titans such as Google and Facebook. However, experts predict that it will all soon be part of the past while pointing out that the concept was never all that great for workers in practice.
If the above is true, then there has never been a better time to rethink workplace design. With many entreprises moving into a hybrid work model, office redesign at a large scale is imminent.
The needs of the workplace as well as those of employees around the globe are changing and personal well-being is becoming a front-runner of work environment necessities.
1. Why Designing for Wellness Matters
Before you can design for wellness you first need to understand the challenges the open office layout presents, how it fails to contribute to the well-being of employees, the benefits of a workplace wellness design, and why it should matter to your organization.
1.2. Challenges with the Open Office
As mentioned above, the concept of the open office, initially thought to promote collaboration and productivity has become quite the opposite. Such is true largely because open office layouts have devolved into something of a whirlpool of noise, interruptions, and distractions, leaving employees stress and unable to focus.
Moreover, office floor plan are too often designed without consideration of those who will frequent the space on a daily basis. As a result, what was meant to drive collaboration and productivity has actually hindered it and more often than not, employees resort to plugging in their headphones in hopes to get some work done.
Naturally, given the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, the open office layouts also raises some health and safety concerns. A Vice article argued that open offices are vessels for disease to be transmitted, something which is a major current concerns for employees working on-site.
1.3. Benefits of Designing for Wellness
The Fellowes Workplace Wellness Trend Report, reveals that 87% of employees wish their current job offered healthier workspace benefits such as wellness rooms, sit-stand desk options, or healthy lunch options. This finding implies that an overwhelming majority feels that wellness isn’t at the forefront of workplace concerns.
We now know that what the open office layout failed to do is consider the effect this model has on individual well-being. The goals, to increase productivity and collaboration, are good but the strategy to meet these goals isn’t quite right.
That being said, the office floor layout isn’t the sole contributor to employee well-being; this is a plus for many since comprehensive office renovations may not immediately be available to some organizations.
A wellness focused workplace benefits both the employees and employer. When properly designed for increased well-being, the workplace fosters an environment where productivity alike collaboration increases organically and where employees feel empowered. Otherwise said, better well-being amongst your employees will result in greater performance at work.
2. Better Design for Wellness
Designing your office layout for wellness doesn’t have to be expensive and tedious. There are several things you can do to increase employee well-being in the workplace without revamping the entire space.
Regardless of the extent of your office redesign, you should think of the space as a ‘Staff Home’ rather than an office space. The Sina Staff Home in Beijing is an incredible example of this ideology, nicknamed ‘Heaven for Staff ‘ the 32, 300 square foot SINA headquarters offers many areas dedicated to both professional and non-professional needs of their 6,000 + employees.
While not every entreprise can take on a project of the SINA Staff Home scale, it is a good base point to model your workplace on.
Idea 1: Neighbourhoods
Introducing neighbourhoods in the workplace is perhaps the most efficient and inexpensive way to counter noise pollutions, lack of privacy, and overpopulated areas.
Segment different areas of the office based on activities such as collaborative zones or quiet zones to provide employees with the option to work where and how they prefer. Using neighbourhoods and furnishing each of them according to their respective purpose will help alleviate the growing need for privacy and autonomy in the office.
Idea 2: Clear Guidelines
Workplace policies and guidelines are crucial in any sphere of the office life and this is no exception. Designing for wellness alone is not enough for it to be effective, you also need to educate your employees on how to use the new space so that everyone can reap the benefits of it.
Your workplace policy should inform employees on things such as:
- How to share desks
- Which spaces are dedicated for which activity
- Conference room booking and usage etiquette
- Reasonable timeframe when using collaborative spaces
Clear guidelines mean all employees know what to expect of the space and how to use it respectfully without hampering anyone else’s experience.
Idea 3: Aiming for Comfort
Comfort doesn’t equal idleness. On the contrary, providing different soft seating and workspace surfaces throughout the office ensures that all employees have access to a work environment that suits their needs.
Designing for comfort means more than simply picking out the right furniture. Lighting and temperature are both equally important for a wellness-focused workplace and have both shown to have a significant impact on productivity. This is because light and temperature guide the body’s circadian rhythm. Therefore, a brighter, warmer environments will promote higher energy levels and greater productivity, whereas cooler, darker environments will tend to reduce them.
The types of light sources in the workplace should be varied. Bright blue overhead lighting across the space can only do so much good and ultimately cannot fully replace natural light. Making sure that workspaces are situated in areas with one or more windows will drastically improve productivity.
Idea 4: Soundproofing
Noise pollutions is one of the biggest pitfalls of the open office plan. As sound travels all too well in large spaces, it can be difficult to manage noise control. However, putting up walls is not the only option. Including phone booths and sound dampeners in the workplace can be tremendous solutions at a reasonable price and give employees a place to get some uninterrupted time to focus on work.
If these aren’t sufficient, you can also include noise-canceling headphones at work stations and ambient or noise-canceling speakers across the office to drown out surrounding noise.
There is no denying that employees’ mental health and general well-being are now a first priority when thinking about workplace design and while there is no all-encompassing approach to fulfill this need, there are some initiatives that can be implemented right away to create a more enjoyable and less stressful work environment – and your employees will thank you for it! The ideas included in this article are a great starting point for creating a wellness-centred office culture.