9 Office Hacks for a Healthy Workspace
When it comes to office interior design, aesthetics is everything, right? While it might look pretty, what about the practical elements of the space; how will people interact with the room? Will it promote creativity and encourage productivity? If you’ve ever worked in a cubicle-style workspace with artificial fluorescent lighting, you know how important these elements are and how much they can negatively affect your health. In fact, corporate wellness has become a huge priority for businesses across the globe, with employee gyms or fitness rebates, stress-reduction programs, healthy employee cafeterias, or weekly fruit basket deliveries now common practice. While these wellness initiatives can be easily implemented by large corporations, what can small businesses or individuals do to improve wellness at work? Angela Ferguson of FutureSpace, who designed the Google Australia and American Express offices, shares her top design hacks for creating a healthy workspace.
Provide different environmental settings that encourage people to sit, stand, and move throughout their day. Buy the best-quality ergonomic chair(s) you can afford; make sure all furniture settings support people’s posture, especially when they’re using mobile technologies. Seventies-style beanbags no longer cut it! Most good furniture suppliers will also come and give your staff a lesson in ergonomics and chair adjustments to encourage good posture. Providing staff with a page of simple stretches to do at intervals throughout the day is also useful and promotes good circulation.
Provide support spaces that give people the opportunity to be active while at their place of work. Encourage people to take the stairs and walk to off-site meetings instead of taking taxis. You could even consider standing meetings, including a treadmill for slow walking while using the phone, or wearable devices for staff to encourage healthy competition via a weekly “most steps taken” competition. Digital music services such as Spotify can be used to play background music that is mentally stimulating and de-stressing.
Providing a healthy food offering to clients and staff supports a healthy lifestyle and improves overall well-being. No matter how small your catering budget is, you can always provide fruit, nuts, sushi, and other healthy items for gatherings, events, and meetings, rather than cakes, sweets, and biscuits. Healthy food is “brain food” and feeds the mind as well as the body.
Creating a working environment, no matter how small, that is an ecosystem of interrelated zones and settings provides users with a range of spaces that support their various work modes. A variety of spaces is important (including quiet, collaborative, individual, playful, social, and focused areas). These can be created with mobile screens, curtains, and furniture settings and don’t necessarily have to be hard walls. Choice is both mentally and physically stimulating and promotes autonomy among teams and individuals.
Air quality and access to natural light are important contributors to wellness in the workplace. Try not to build up against windows, and make sure everyone has access to whatever views are available. If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor area, use this to its fullest potential! Monthly team barbecues, outdoor meetings when weather permits, and encouraging staff to eat lunch outside or away from their desks all contribute to wellness in the workplace.
Employees and visitors need to feel connected to each other. Communication barriers should be minimized where possible, and being able to easily see if people are in the workspace helps them feel connected, supported, and like part of a collaborative team. Decluttering the workplace also goes a long way toward providing clarity and connection in the office. Imagine working in an office so littered with paper and other paraphernalia that it is impossible to find a clear surface to collaborate!
Not only is a combination of face-to-face and virtual workplace communication essential for creating a positive attitude, but it is also a way of life these days; however, you don’t need expensive technology to support this. Technologies such as Skype and Google Chromebox are easily accessible, and practices such as Scrum and Agile promote collaborative development of products and services.
Technology is more and more used to enable and support connection between employees and clients. There is a vast range of apps that can be used for communication, both the recording and sharing of information. Remote teams can collaborate via Leankit and other software; technology also means that individuals have greater control over their own work/life balance as they have much more flexibility in how they communicate and collaborate with each other. For example, parents can drop children at school then participate in a conference call during their commute—allowing them to meet both family and work commitments and have much more control over their own time.
Team members need to feel as though they can connect with an organisation on both a cultural and social level. Creating a sense of belonging is about finding activities or events that best suit the culture of the business. It can be as simple as finishing early on a Friday to have a glass of wine together and celebrate the week’s successes. Other, more social activities can include 10-pin bowling, a trip to the art museum at lunchtime, sailing, or participating together in a charity event. Feeling that they belong to a group of like-minded people helps a staff develop deep, long-lasting relationships, and in times of stress, these connections can be invaluable.