If there’s one thing that we can all agree on, it’s that COVID-19 has changed the way we view offices. For many employees, their office has been located at a kitchen table or in a spare bedroom. And while that won’t be ‘the new norm’ forever, we won’t be going back to ‘what was before’ either.
Moving forward, what could (and should) businesses be changing about their office design to create the optimal workplace for their employees? The number one thing that employees are seeking is confidence. Confidence to return. Confidence that it is safe. Confidence that space is suited to their new way of working.
Modern office design should:
1. Improve physical health
The pandemic has pushed a lot of people to take their physical health more seriously. When designing your office space, you should consider how you can look after your employees’ physical wellbeing.
Making sure your office space has plenty of natural light is a simple way to reduce headaches, eye strain and fatigue. If you’re choosing a new office space, make sure you take this into consideration.
Another element of biophilic design that can significantly improve the physical health of your employees is plants. Incorporating plants into your office design leads to better air quality which lessens the impact of allergens and respiratory bugs like colds.
Office furniture and equipment can negatively impact your employee’s physical wellbeing if not positioned correctly – something as simple as a desk at the wrong height can lead to long term joint problems or injuries. Consider investing in furniture that can be easily adapted and adjusted depending on your employees’ needs.
2. Improve mental health
The number of adults experiencing depression in the UK doubled during the first lockdown. It is critical for Mental health to be on the radar of business owners now more than ever, if they wish to retain a happy, healthy and engaged team. Once again, biophilic design elements can be a huge help in this area. Exposure to natural light has been linked to better sleep and water features have been used in offices to create a soothing white-noise-like effect.
Providing spaces where employees can take a break from technology or their to-do list can massively improve an employee’s mental health at work. It gives them a chance to disconnect, unwind and refocus their mind. A soft reset and reboot. These spaces can take many forms – some offices opt for outdoor garden-like spaces, others create a break room with soft furnishings and some simply reduce the distractions in a certain area of the office.
3. Encourage connections
Long lockdowns and periods of self-isolation have left many employees missing the human contact they would get in a traditional office setting. One of the many appealing factors that returning to the workplace will have is the opportunity to connect, collaborate and communicate with other people on a daily basis.
Encourage these connections in your workplace by providing meeting spaces where people can gather and share ideas. Another way to encourage connections is to ensure that there is space for eye-to-eye contact when employees are at their desks or regular workstations – i.e. don’t box them, and offer options.
4. Accommodate flexible working
Since the first lockdown, employees have got used to being in full control of their working day – including their hours, routine and workstation. To put it simply: people have figured out how they work best. So why not accommodate them when designing your office?
One method you could use is to enable your employees to customise their workspaces, allowing their space to reflect their optimal working area. This could involve the introduction of personnel effects, or perhaps by providing each employee with a suite of options for them to choose from. Another way that we have seen the idea explored one step further is having all furniture on wheels, providing the ultimate flexibility in workstation allowing their employees to work ‘wherever’ they like!
When designing your office you need to also think about how the space is going to be used and occupied beyond the physical. Many people have embraced flexible working hours during lockdown and may wish to stick to this schedule in the future. Find out what else your employees do during the day and see if you can incorporate a space where they can do this – e.g. a small yoga space where employees can do some lunch-time stretches or an eating area away from the desks where employees can take food breaks without fear of disturbing others still at work. Allowing employees this freedom will enable them to be more productive, positive and engaged at work.
For more help designing a workplace that really works for your business, get in touch with our friendly experts at Resolution Interiors