It’s more than just four walls to work within – workspace can be built to boost the performance and wellbeing of staff.
These days, there’s so much more awareness of how our everyday actions have consequences on our bodies and minds: the things we eat, the amount we move, the number of hours we spend in front of a screen. There’s a societal shift towards being more intentional about how our everyday lives should play out. And this includes the daily environment we immerse ourselves in.
We spend 90% of our lives in buildings. Yet, according to the UK’s Building Research Establishment (BRE), in a typical office, 60% of staff don’t have sufficient access to daylight. Which is problematic since, second to our homes, our workplace is our most common habitat.
Forward-thinking businesses are increasingly recognising the impact of office space on employees’ ability to perform well in their role. And there’s a growing amount of research that shows how intelligently designed spaces can boost employees’ wellbeing and their productivity – and, therefore, cut down on sick days while boosting a company’s competitive edge.
What specifically makes office space conducive to productivity? For a start, the more greenery, fresh air and natural light the better. Research from the University of Exeter found that having plants in offices boosts productivity by as much as 15%.
And another study from Cornell University reported that those working in offices with natural daylight reported an 84% drop in symptoms such as eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision – all of which hamper productivity.
A study by Harvard University found a link between the quality of people’s indoor environment and their cognitive performance.
It showed how factors, such as increasing the presence of plants, could double the test scores of participants. And its outcomes have gone on to inform world-leading companies in the way they design their workspaces – including Apple’s newest California headquarters, where 10,000 trees have been planted across the campus to make it easier for employees to be closer to nature.
In general, biophilic design principles – where nature is incorporated into architecture as much as possible to boost people’s exposure to it – are the way to go. The BRE is undertaking a long-term research project – The Biophilic Office - in association with Oliver Heath Design. Spanning 2.5 years, the project is taking the floor of a 1980s office building and giving it the natural look. Using a number of biophilic methods – such as installing natural materials, water features and LED lights that mimic daylight – the project will monitor and analyse those working in the space before and after the refurbishment to see how they are affected. The experiment will conclude next year, and the results should prove interesting for businesses who want to get the most out of their teams.
In terms of layout, research as also shown the benefits of creating various work zones for staff to move between – rather than confining them to the same spot day-in, day-out. A 2016 study from Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic created a ‘Well Living Lab’ to explore how the quality and pace of employees’ work was impacted by different atmospheres.
The Mayo Clinic’s results concluded that the ideal office environment offers eight different zones – each one catering to a different aspect of a working environment. They named them:
- Home Base: a quiet area for concentrated, focused working
- Open Plan: an open workspace supporting communication
- Meeting Room: for conferencing, workshops and training sessions
- Break-out Area: for informal working, break time and chatting
- Touchdown: a zone for spontaneous, flexible working
- Refuge Area: a sanctuary for confidential conversations
- Resource Room: for equipment and stores
- Inter-zone Corridors: for reactivating and focusing one’s body and mind.
As the world’s leading provider of flexible office space, IWG closely follows innovations in office design and methods for optimising staff productivity. Unlike static, conventional office space – at the mercy of a landlord’s decision to refurbish tired office space (or not), flexible offices can be easily adapted and fitted out to meet a company’s needs. And, generally, IWG provides newer, more contemporary, more intuitively designed workspace.
As the flexspace movement gains momentum, and more flexible offices are built from scratch around the world, the industry is able to incorporate the latest principles in good design for the benefit of those who work there and their employers.
Find out more about how you can help set up a flexible workspace to benefit companies and their employees