Wellbeing at work
Wellbeing at work
With one in four UK adults experiencing some form of mental issue at any one time in their lives and depression set to be the leading cause of our global disease burden by 2030* we thought we’d discuss wellbeing at work this month.
We’ll be exploring how workplace design can seriously impact on employees’ productivity and how a few simple steps could see you greatly improving your staff environment.
Ben Johnson has worked on workplace design with numerous large organisations throughout the UK for many years and from experience has put together eight essential elements of excellent design for wellbeing at work.
Lighting in an office impacts greatly on mood and productivity and is far more important to staff than many employers realise – especially a good source of natural light. Try to position workstations near windows but remember distinct tasks require different types and levels of lighting. You can use lighting to define different areas of the workplace, for instance, with more subtle lighting in your breakout areas
When designing a workspace for Unilever Aladdin in Leeds, Ben Johnson Interiors first introduced roof lights at first floor level to increase the natural light and new windows were added to ensure focus areas had excellent levels of natural daylight.
At Ashcourt Rowan Financial services in Leeds – the illusion of light in the working areas was key to the design. Ben Johnson used various shades of monochrome together with feature lighting to increase the light within the working areas. All partitions were glazed with branded manifestation to ensure transparency throughout.
2. Autonomy and Choice
It’s important to give staff a choice of how and where they wish to work in an office environment. Ensure all office furniture is adjustable and offer a range of spaces including quiet rooms, formal / informal meeting rooms and break out areas. A variety of spaces means people move around the office more – which is good for health – and can also interact more with their colleagues. A win-win situation!
At Rank Group UK in Sheffield, the breakout area was a dynamic space separated from the main office. The space incorporated a variety of furniture solutions to create different types of zones to respond to any requirement. The zones included dining seating, informal soft seating areas and auditorium seating to accommodate more employees within the space to conduct company briefings.
At Penspen in Newcastle, the scheme incorporated a mixture of meeting areas, ranging from the higher spec client boardroom and training room to the smaller internal meeting rooms and quiet rooms. The meeting provision was further increased by informal open plan furniture pods; ideal for project meetings and non-confidential discussions.
The temperature in an office has a surprising impact on atmosphere and mood. It’s a tricky one to get 100% right but one tip we always give our clients in a new office design is to include the most up-to date, flexible heating and air conditioning system into the initial design from the start.
At Spectrum in Wakefield, with client such as HM Prison Wakefield, the client had many confidential conversations taking place on site. The design had to accommodate a larger than average amount of cellular space, including offices, meeting, training and one-to-one rooms. Ben Johnson had to ensure these rooms had adequate heating and cooling to reduce stress in an already pressure working environment.
So many different jobs go on in a workplace at any one time that it’s sometimes difficult to accommodate different acoustic needs. Some people need a quiet work area where they can concentrate, while others spend a lot of time talking loudly on the phone.
One solution is to install phone booths for noisy calling activity. Alternatively having music playing softly in background is relaxing and welcoming and can sometimes serve to mute background chatter. .
An alternative is to build in acoustic considerations into the design from the start. Acoustic quilting, artwork and partitioning, can all be used to control noise and improve privacy.
At Turnitin Newcastle, Ben Johnson installed booth seating with inbuilt technology to double up as a quiet working space outside lunch hours.
At IceLolly.com transparency between different zones coupled with high-level acoustic performance was achieved with the use of double-glazed partitioning and doors throughout the scheme.
5. Water and nutrition – Good breakout areas
Staff need somewhere in the office where they can comfortably spend time away from their desk, enjoy a sandwich or a salad and have a chat, catch up on texts or read a paper. Designing good breakout areas in a workplace is becoming increasingly important.
Many companies provide tea, coffee and water as well as fresh fruit or even a staff café.
If your kitchens are used by staff to prepare their own lunches, ensure you have a rota system or cleaners to ensure the area is kept clean and tidy. Nothing more depressing than a staff kitchen full of crumbs and dirty dishes!
At Turnitin Newcastle Ben Johnson was asked to give the kitchen space the ‘wow’ factor, with an L Shaped built-in breakfast bar, feature pendant lights, corian tops and integrated handles with soft closing doors.
There’s a lot of talk about colour and its use within the workplace – with greens and blues seen as relaxing and calming, while warm colours are considered to be stimulating and creative. Ben Johnson sometimes use colour to demarcate different areas in an office. Brand will also play a big part in colour selection and it’s important to reflect your company’s values.
At TP Orthodontics in Leeds we used a soft, warm, autumnal colour palette while at Horizon platforms in Wakefield we used the brand colours of black, white and grey which were accented by tones of red to create interest, while natural timbers helped to soften the space.
7. Individual extras
Every workforce is different and as well as all the above considerations, care should be taken to address the needs of your particular workforce.
As Rank UK’s office was near Sheffield train station, they had many staff who cycled to a local train station in the morning and took their bikes on the train into Sheffield. It was also part of Rank’s business model to encourage health and well-being at work and encourage users to cycle/walk to work. The building had cycle racks, and two additional showers were installed on the Rank floor with secure lockers and a changing area.
At one financial debt collection call centre in Leeds, workers often have to deal with difficult phone calls and talk to people under pressure. By request, Ben Johnson has installed a number of special calming “stress rooms” with ambient lighting and aromatherapy candles to relax staff after particularly tricky conversations.
8. Wow Factor
Finally, it’s a constant morale boost for all staff simply to work in a fabulous workplace. Walking into an office with an incredible reception is bound to put a spring in your step at the start of the working day.
Ben Johnson Interiors have designed and fitted numerous “wow” offices over the years including work for Lorien Graphics in Leeds and Manchester which included the build of an Olympic Arena room – and also designed and refurbished very smart BT training rooms throughout the UK to improve the employees’ training experiences.
We also worked on the design and fit of Indigo Planning Consultants in Leeds. Here’s what their project architect said: “The completed project is a great improvement and has been embraced by all staff, resulting in a significant lift in staff morale”