Wellbeing and productivity

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’, I 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 employees can engage with and feel comfortable in. A poorly-designed workspace inhibits 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 10 elements that 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? 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 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 per cent more productive and process calls 12 per cent faster. Exposure to natural light increases productivity by 18 per cent and better lighting in general pushes up work rates by 23 per cent.

4. Support systems. The Council estimates improved air quality and ventilation increase productivity by up to 11 per cent and thermal comfort by 3 per cent. 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 environmental assessment ratings.

5. Noise, acoustics and privacy. Leesman says only 29 per cent of employees are satisfied with the noise levels in their organisation – those who are dissatisfied are more likely to report a low sense of personal productivity. This 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 per cent 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 disrupt blood 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-out 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.

Wellbeing is fundamental to productivity and while 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.

Case study
Accountancy firm Wilson Partners put this theory into practise when it re-designed its workspace in Maidenhead. The firm worked with office design and fit-out expert Area Sq and its sister firm, commercial furniture specialist Sketch.

Director Ross Wilson explains: “We started the business in 2008 with two founding directors and 250 square feet of space. We wanted to create an environment which would allow us to grow, inspire the Wilson Partners team, improve staff recruitment and retention and impress clients who view our surroundings as a reflection of our professionalism.

“We worked closely with Area Sq and Sketch who helped us clarify our vision and values and ensured our workspace could evolve and embrace change in line with growth.

“The brief was to create an open plan paperless environment that maximised the use of light, was comfortable from a temperature perspective, gave the right impression to visitors and demonstrated we’re a fun place to work. Most importantly we wanted that ‘wow’ factor – not just for our team but for everyone we come into contact with.

“Collaboration was also key so staff were involved in the consultation process and they chose famous quotes to hang on the walls, adding colour to break up the white surroundings.

“Although we are open plan, the issue of acoustics is managed via ‘think tank’ quiet areas and dedicated offices for confidential meetings. We also have ‘take a pew’ break-out areas for team meetings and a kitchen area ‘stay hungry stay foolish’ where we all eat together weekly which is invaluable for team building.

“We chose our location because it’s walking distance to a gym where we have a discount arrangement. We support staff who are keen on other pursuits such as cycling, contributing to whatever charity challenges they undertake. This has helped develop a ‘fit for business’ culture. The fruit bowl is also filled up daily so there’s always a good mix of fruit on tap.”

Ross concludes: “Over the years we’ve increased our floor space tenfold and grown our team to 24. This great working environment has not only contributed to staff wellbeing and productivity but increased our client base – a win, win all round.”