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Future of Work Q2 2022

Wellbeing must be front of mind for the future office

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Mark Kowal

President, British Council for Offices

While the pandemic acted as a true accelerator for change, we will continue to redefine the role offices play in our lives in years to come.

A crucial focus of the future office is wellness and how our work environment can encourage healthier lifestyles and act as a magnet for the best and brightest talent.

No longer a luxury

Workplace wellness strategies have often been viewed as a ‘nice-to-have’, but the feedback I am hearing from occupiers and developers today paints a different picture. Wellbeing is increasingly seen as essential to the office of the future. Without a clear plan to keep people healthy and safe, organisations will find it difficult to attract talent back into the office.

A bolder approach

It is time for offices to address the themes of light, air, sound and comfort in new and more radical ways.

People still want to see visible demonstrations of the wellness agenda, such as amenities that encourage healthy eating or active commuting, or colourful surroundings and biophilia which make workspaces more welcoming. But office users will also be more conscious of how intangible qualities, such as clean air, acoustics and brightness can shape their physical and mental health.

This change in mindset has influenced office design. For example, air quality is becoming an even bigger consideration, now seen as a key ‘selling point’ for developments.

Wellbeing is increasingly seen as essential to the office of the future.

Inclusive strategies

We must recognise that people experience and interact with the office in different ways. The modern workplace may be a challenging environment for some, particularly those who are neurodivergent, or those with conditions such as autism.

This greater sensitivity is pushing designers to think carefully about most aspects of the office, from the use of colour and wayfinding strategies to different workspaces and their range of lighting and acoustics. With a growing level of expertise in this area, we can create a new generation of offices that are more inclusive than ever.

Wellbeing vs sustainability

Outside of their core office space, occupiers will continue to develop surrounding public areas, encouraging their use for work, breaks and commuting. Some organisations may also invest in hubs outside of busy city centres, removing the need for daily commuting, which can impact people’s wellbeing, and carbon footprint.

Many of these efforts go hand-in-hand with our increased focus on sustainability. Outdoor spaces, natural ventilation and lighting and the use of raw materials are just some solutions which benefit both our wellbeing, and that of our planet, creating greener and more energy-efficient spaces.

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