CEO, British Council for Offices (BCO)
Workplaces that put wellbeing first hold the key to redrawing the boundaries between work and life as we return to the office.
The last eighteen 18 months has seen a seismic shift in our home spaces. Office desks, monitors and sprawling notes sprung up across what was previously a private space. With time, we’ve adjusted to this change , and many relish the benefits it has brought. But now too are we are sseeing the drawbacks. Our working day has become blurred, with many working harder than ever. The office is a solution to this. Not only to set necessary parameters, but to create an environment for social exchange and promote employee wellbeing.
Active commuting, particularly cycling to work, is on the rise. Many of us have also reconnected with, or discovered new natural landscapes, often closer to home. As more people switch to hybrid working patterns, offices need to mirror these trends. Whether that’s providing shower facilities, bike storage and lockerss, or access to green spaces. There will probably be a rise in satellite offices, as employees seek the benefits of the office, while cutting down on long, emission-heavy commutes.
Meeting physically is crucial for fostering emotional wellbeing a, and the office is a vital part of this. The BCO has examined this in-depth, exploring how design stimulates our senses1 and the benefits that art can bring to productivity.2 Don’t underestimate plant power either, either. Harvard University has found that greenery can lower blood pressure and improve short-term memory.
Our working day has become blurred, with many working harder than ever.
Safeguarding these internal environmental qualities needs to be expanded to areas such as monitoring air quality, ventilation, temperature , and humidity. Building this into office design will create welcoming spaces.
The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for every faction of our lives. If we are to encourage the workforce back to the workplace, offices need to suit us all. The Shard’s ‘mind restoration pods’3 are a great example of providing private spaces for those seeking quiet contemplation alongside the hum of a busy office.
Building an inclusive workspace is vital for attracting a diverse range of thinkers and skills , and to facilitate interpersonal connections. As many businesses move to a hybrid model, these moments of physical social interaction are essential for ensuring the next generation can learn by osmosis during meetings and impromptu interactions. Only the office can deliver on all these fronts.