Posted 4 July, 2016 OBI BLOG
When companies move into new offices, or refurbish their existing premises, you’ll hear people talk about how “it’s a better place to be” or “a more pleasant working environment”. It’s the sort of thing people say without really thinking about – the new place just feels nicer, somehow.
But there’s more to a healthy, happy workplace than vague notions of people being chirpier because there’s new furniture, nicer paintings on the wall and a jar of sweets on the reception desk. A recent report from the World Green Building Council, Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices: the next chapter for green building talks about some of the key factors in health, satisfaction and job performance. It makes for interesting reading.
Take indoor air quality – is this something you’ve ever considered? A better air quality, meaning a low level of carbon dioxide and pollutants, and a high level of ventilation, can improve performance by 8 to 11 per cent. If you work somewhere where you’re even wondering ‘is this too stuffy?’ then yes, it probably is too stuffy.
Lighting and views of nature are picked out, too. Experts reckon that proximity to windows is perhaps the single biggest driver of workplace productivity, particularly when there’s a bit of nature in view. That’s not always possible in urban environments, which is all the more reason to bring a bit of greenery into the workplace.
At Queens House, for example, we introduced a living green wall to the lightwell, improving the working environment in the centre of the floorspace. At Rentalcars’ Sunlight House office, we created areas that were green and tranquil, allowing people to find some calm and clear their minds.
Noise and acoustics are another big point – unwanted distractions are the largest inhibitor of productivity and workplace calm in knowledge-based offices. Nobody wants to impose a “no talking” rule like the strictest teacher in school, so it’s time to get smart. With several clients, we’ve introduced intelligent, smart-looking design elements to aid acoustics, such as sound baffles above meeting pods or mounted on walls. Urbanbubble, for example, now have acoustic ceiling baffles to help with sound reverberation.
Interior design in general is important. Workplace density and configuration obviously impact on how satisfied people are at work, and so do breakout areas and social areas. What do you need from your workplace? Are you looking to increase those “collision points” people talk about, helping people mix and integrate?
Active design and exercise were also named as key – if you have the space, can you support exercise areas, or at least bike storage space and shower facilities? Your people will appreciate it and benefit from it.
The effectiveness of investing in offices can be measured with metrics both financial (absenteeism, staff turnover, complaints) and perceptual – what are people telling you? Caring about wellness has to be a good thing, surely?
None of this is rocket science, but all of it can go into a personal checklist you mentally run through when you’re in a building. More to the point, how does the place you work from measure up? If there are some 6 out of 10 scores, it might be worth asking a few pointed questions.