In the wake of Covid-19, the term “employee wellbeing” has taken on a whole new meaning as companies wrack their brains trying to lure employees back to the office. According to statistics, 66% of employees working remotely do not feel completely safe going back to their former offices.
Apart from ensuring a sanitized environment, there is a lot that company leaders and HR can do to create a workspace that enhances the well being of their employees. The following are three tried and true employee-centric workspace designs to take cues from,
Agile Workspace Design
The goal of an agile workspace is to help each employee reach his/her maximum potential, by creating spaces that facilitate a variety of working styles and personalities. In an agile environment, the office is divided into different “zones” that employees can choose to roam around and work at freely. A well optimized agile workspace may consist of the following areas:
- Quiet zones with enhanced privacy and sound proofing
- Open, cafeteria style areas similar to a coworking space
- Ergonomic spaces with standing desks and active sitting chairs
- Informal meeting areas.
- Fun breakout zones to let loose (ping pong tables, board games etc)
Let’s say a content writer is having a serious case of the writer’s block. She may choose to spend some time in the breakout area to regain her perspective and inspiration. A typically gregarious engineer may be on a time crunch to deliver a project. In this case, he may opt to get away from the noisy general office area to retreat to the quiet zone where there is no distraction.
General Electric for example credits an agile workspace with helping them save on property costs while improving employee productivity and communication. HR leaders at GE Australia and New Zealand conducted a desk audit and found that assigned physical desks were only being utilized 35% of the time. In light of this, the company adopted an agile workplace consisting of hot desks, bookable spaces and large common areas. The result has been an overwhelming success for the company in terms of employee productivity and morale.
A biophilic design incorporates aspects of nature into the workspace, by integrating plants and greenery into every facet of the office. Various studies have linked contact with nature with reduced stress and an increase in general sense of wellbeing.
To create a biophilic workspace, make use of both direct and indirect connections with nature.
Direct connection includes bringing tangible aspects of nature to the work area, such as natural lighting, plants, and outdoor workspaces.
Offices can also make use of indirect connections with nature using paintings, pictures, sculptures or artificial landscapes depicting nature. Such objects help evoke a sense of being outside thanks to clever manipulation of colors, shapes, and biomimicry.
McCann Erickson’s office design by Tom Dixon, Photo Credit: Tom Dixon
McCann-Erickson’s office in New York, designed by Tom Dixon, is an example of a well executed biophilic project. It features an abundance of natural lighting, great outdoor views, and use of wooden desks along with glass and copper lighting to achieve a natural feel in the office. Plants and greenery are strategically placed to create an amazing living wall partitioning that also helps improve the air quality and privacy within the open office.
Proactive Virtual Office Design
Last but not least, many workers post-covid-19 would probably argue that the most conducive place for them to work is still at home. As such, an employee-centric workspace these days must support the ability for employees to continue to work remotely if they choose, at least periodically.
Obviously this far into the pandemic, most companies probably already support remote working at the basic level, like remote access VPNs and video conferencing. However, a well optimized virtual office needs to take into account an employee’s comfort and health as well while they work offsite.
A cross sectional study on WFH employees reveals the most common pain points experienced by workers. Of those surveyed, over 50% said their neck pain worsened, while 52.4% experienced increased lower back pain.
While there are many reasons for neck and back pain, if it occurs during work, the culprit is usually poor ergonomics. The bedroom or kitchen is far from the ideal place to be working for many hours every day.
To that end, companies need to start looking at employees’ homes as an extension of the office. With that altitude, it makes perfect sense to offer assistance in helping employees optimize their home office following the principles of an ergonomic workspace.
The most important ergonomic accessories for computer related work are a laptop stand, ergonomic mouse, and a comfortable office chair. These three items target the main areas of the body that tend to overload at work – the neck, wrist, and back.
Employees feel a lot more appreciated – and are much more likely to stay – when they feel that their company cares about their well being even beyond the four walls of the office.
Author Bio: Jon Muller
Jon Muller is the founder of Ergonomic Trends where he blogs about ergonomics, office productivity, and ways to stay healthy at the office. During his spare time he loves walking his dog and hiking with his friends and family.