The office’s role in economic recovery
We've been discussing amongst ourselves and with our clients, the future of the workplace and the role the office has in helping businesses recover from tough economic conditions. When it comes to our offices, designing them to impact employees so they’re firing on all cylinders is key to responding to crisis, recovering well and supporting future growth.
Our physical environment impacts our psychology in three ways:
- Affect - influencing emotions or mood
- Cognition - influencing perceptions, intuition, understanding and thought process
- Behaviour - influencing how we conduct ourselves
So, what are the three typical concerns about the new world of work?
An engaged workforce will lead you out of a recession much faster than a discontented one. Ultimately the feeling to try to achieve amongst staff is happiness. When we feel happy, we’re energised and enthusiastic about being at work and doing work.
Given the unpredictability of the last year, you may recognise change fatigue in your team. It’s more important than ever to prioritise wellness within your engagement strategy as the past year has taken its toll in all sorts of ways. Job insecurity, isolation, the juggling of working and home-schooling are just a few examples. For some, the trauma of 2020 will have caused long-term concerns which won’t immediately heal as soon as office and schools re-open.
OFFICE DESIGN TIPS FOR ENGAGEMENT:
Employee engagement can be defined by both culture and environment - the two are intertwined with wellness.
Agile working influences how people engage with their work. Depending on their task or personal preferences people can choose to work in an open plan or private space, at a workstation with multiple monitors or in the snug on their laptop. Moving between these spaces creates more opportunity for serendipitous moments, chance opportunities for collaboration and social connection.
In order to feel engaged, people also need to feel safe. It’s a basic human need. Covid-secure design is already a necessity but its importance is not just ensuring people are safe but ensuring people feel safe. This includes reviewing the use of regular touchpoints, circulation, introducing new sanitary equipment and even smart tech to minimise risk.
To aid wellbeing, sit-stand desks, a layout that encourages movement, and walking meetings will keep your employees on their feet and improve physical wellness. Biophilic design has been proven to positively affect mental health. In short, that means optimising natural light, introducing planting, and using natural shapes, colours and textures.
Productivity’s nemesis is procrastination and while that’s always been associated with poor time-keeping, more recent research tells us that procrastination is in fact a mis-management of emotions. If a task is making us feel bad (anxious, unprepared, a fear of failing) we make ourselves feel better in the moment by doing something else.
With that in mind, your employees need to feel calm, happy and worthy to be at their most productive. While a positive working culture will have a big influence on this, there are ways we can remove physical barriers too to ensure working life is as relaxed and enjoyable as possible.
OFFICE DESIGN TIPS FOR PRODUCTIVITY:
Clear, focused thinking, whether as a solo task or in a team, is easier to achieve in a calm, quiet space with few distractions. Even if many people are continuing to work from home, there will still be a need for desks at work for those who need to analyse, strategise or complete detailed work from the office.
Ergonomics are also key. You want your team to be thinking about the task at hand and not their discomfort, so appropriate and varied furniture choices to suit a range of personal preferences is best.
Layout in terms of both the flow of space and the convenience of neighbouring teams that work closely together will mean less time and energy is wasted.
Smart technology will help streamline communications, management-style and processes. It also allows you to monitor how clean the air is. Cleaner air is proven to boost both productivity and wellbeing.
With a potentially scattered workforce, businesses are prioritising space for innovation so that when we can be together again, every chance to explore new opportunity is amplified.
What feelings fuel creative cognition? An environment that encourages bravery and openness creates space for big thinking, allowing a business to pivot and respond to shock more quickly. Whilst it’s not impossible to generate ideas alone, working collaboratively with others and being able to bounce ideas around, learn from one another and contribute to a greater conversation is generally a greater source for stimulation.
How can an office make people feel brave, creative and adept at working together?
OFFICE DESIGN TIPS FOR INNOVATION:
Project rooms or innovation labs well equipped to house ideas on boards, walls, screens or anywhere you see fit are perfect for workshops. High tables or scrum tables that encourage people to stand while they think can bring more energy to the task at hand. And colours, textures and materials will also spark different emotional or behavioural responses.
Active engagement and distance are needed to find creative resolutions to problems so working away from your usual environment is beneficial and creating space for chance encounters in between is ideal.
Some of the best ideas aren’t found in a brainstorming session itself but in the coffee-machine conversation that follows.
Nobody knows exactly what the future holds for the workplace. It will depend on the nature of the business whether some or all employees will return to the office.
But it is in finding ways to cultivate engagement, productivity and innovation that businesses can be in the best position to bounce back from hard times.
Everything from our day-to-day- disposition, our decision-making ability, and how motivated we are can be impacted by our surroundings. An office isn’t just an office. It’s a tool to engage and inspire. By considering it as part of a holistic plan incorporating cultural, HR and operational experiences as well, you can ensure your space is fit to see you through recovery, and future growth.