Cover StoryFeaturedWorkplace Planning & Design

Creating environments to support employee wellbeing

Paul Eatock, managing director of Eatock Design & Build

While 73% of businesses believe that staff wellbeing is important, only 45% of UK workers have seen that belief actioned by their employers. It makes redesigning the UK’s workplaces to support and amplify staff wellbeing more important than ever.

In 2022, work-related stress and anxiety resulted in the loss of an estimated 17 million working days. As workers embed into a new year – a typically stressful time as teams adapt to new targets, clients, and working approaches – implementing changes to workspaces that support staff wellbeing can yield tangible rewards. Spaces that are crafted to help reduce stress levels can, in turn, make staff feel more connected to their office and employer.

Our behaviours have changed, so spaces must too

Events of recent years have vastly redefined how workers perceive work. There is a fresh emphasis on flexible working and the power for employees to demand more accommodating approaches to working from their employers. This is particularly important for working around family commitments. As behaviours and outlooks change, so must the spaces that staff operate in.

It’s important to understand and cater for what the modern worker needs to perform at their best and how their workspace accommodates those needs. The modern office should have a variety of spaces available for staff to work from depending on the tasks they are undertaking, not just a single, one-size-fits-all desk space. Offering a variety of spaces helps workers get into the right headspace for the task at hand. It can help workers feel supported, rather than stifled, by their environment. Amongst the amenities desired by UK office workers are open-plan spaces for collaborative working and soundproofed booths for private, distraction-free working. Fitting these with integrated video call technology will also help eliminate tech-induced stress and presents the ideal place for calls with clients and customers.

A well-designed scheme will make the most out of the space you have. When we work with clients on refurbishment projects, they are always surprised by the scope of impactful changes that can be made to make an existing space feel like new. There is untapped potential in office retrofits.

The homification of the office

The drop in temperatures and the rising cost of energy bills are driving people back to the office. In a time when 81% of the UK prefers working from home, the homification of the office can positively boost staff morale. Fitted kitchen spaces allow employees to cook and eat what they want and accommodate a variety of diets. Recreational spaces are great for encouraging a more sociable working environment, helping build a more family-like feel throughout teams.

Pets & plants

Creating office spaces that accommodate plants and our pets can also help improve employee wellbeing. Not only do plants in the workplace make for a cosier and more welcoming aesthetic, they are also proven to help reduce stress, absorb background noise, and heighten our senses for improved productivity. Plants naturally filter toxins from the air, helping employees perform better, which is why biophilia is so predominant across the most effective office design schemes.

There are also wellbeing benefits of bringing your dog to work as our bodies have been proven to release stress-reducing hormones when interacting with our canine companions. The University of Lincoln has also found that having a dog in the office can boost day-to-day productivity and ensure the longevity of the workforce. So, adding a dog bed, food, and water station – along with poo bags and rug cleaner – to your office space has plenty of benefits to both employer and employee.

More than just a workspace

The number of offices offering staff meditation or exercise classes is on the up too, rising from 39% in 2019 to 47% today. Allowing staff moments for meditation – and a tailored space in which to meditate – can have a huge impact on mental health, particularly in high-stress, fast-paced environments. In most cases, a simple restructure of the office floorplan can accommodate meditation spaces without impacting the functionality of the rest of the scheme.  

Research by CIPHR has found that 79% of UK workers feel stressed at least once a month and meditating and the spaces for quiet time outs can make a big contribution to alleviating those negative feelings.

Even the smallest of changes can make staff feel like they are valued. Reassessing the functionality of workspaces can yield results that make workers happier and more at home when then they’re in the office which, in turn, boosts productivity to help businesses hit their 2023 targets.

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