Though many people may have enjoyed the increased flexibility that working from home can bring, our recent research has shown that over three quarters of workers want to return to the workplace for a least some of the working week.
Having said that, there’s still likely to be some apprehension as the pandemic is by no means over, so it’s vital that employers take this into account and ensure everyone feels comfortable in the workplace. Therefore, the reintroduction of office working requires time and thought to ensure all staff feel safe and happy returning to a more normal way of working, particularly for those who may have been on furlough for some time.
It’s not all about hygiene
Hygiene measures are likely to be at the top of the agenda for businesses for quite some time and quite rightly so. However, it’s vital that this doesn’t come at the cost of other pressing issues, such as employee wellbeing and mental health – particularly now as these areas have been hard in recent months. With poor mental health costing UK businesses £45 million every year and the demand for support services being at its highest ever rate, now is the time to support your team. This has to go beyond flexible working which has become the norm – the office itself can’t be ignored.
New research we’ve conducted reveals almost three quarters (73%) of employees would be more likely to leave their job if their workspaces aren’t designed with mental health in mind, while 79% agree that a well-designed office would motivate them to accept a job. At a time when many industries are struggling to recruit, this shows how crucial the office can be in both retaining staff and attracting talent.
If this wasn’t evidence enough, I was interested to see a recent case study from the International WELL Building Institute, a company found that by redesigning a healthier office space it reduced staff turnover by 27% and absenteeism was 50% lower than the previous year, again highlighting just how much of an impact the office can have on morale and wellbeing.
People are your top priority
Never before has the saying ‘a happy worker is a productive worker’ been more important. Whilst, there’s no one way to ensure all your employers are happy, if you put people-first in your business then you will be better placed to understand and cater to your staff’s particular needs.
Our research highlighted that 82% of people are looking forward to returning to the workplace for at least some of the working week with one in two (52%) revealing they miss socialising with colleagues, one in five miss having access to high-quality amenities such as tea, coffee and filtered water, and 40% are looking forward to having a dedicated workspace back.
However, this isn’t the case for all and some employees will be feeling disconnected from their companies as a result of such a long time apart, while others may be dreading the thought of the daily commute. This is why it’s so valuable to have open conversations with employees to help them feel heard and valued.
With this in mind, there are some simple but effective changes businesses can implement to make the move back to the office more welcoming and appealing over the coming months, focusing on areas known to affect mental health and wellbeing.
Put the team in control
There are a number of systems you can put in place that will give the staff control over their own surroundings, such as temperature controls on their desks or providing natural ventilation, not just air conditioning. You can also create a sense of privacy and security by allocating private spaces for employees to store their belongings and take personal calls.
Create a comfy breakout space
People have been used to the comforts of home over the past 18 months but without the social interaction of the office. Combine the two and create an area for collaboration and socialising, such as break out rooms or lounge areas that remind people of home. You could even ask your employees to bring in one item to help fill the space, creating a talking point as well as a place which makes your team feel relaxed.
A hydrated team is a happy team
Providing high quality amenities within offices shows employees that their physical and mental well-being is highly valued and, in turn, can boost productivity and enthusiasm from your teams. Water dispensers are one of the many factors which play an important role in the level of comfort and positivity people feel within their workplace. By choosing an inclusive option like BRITA VIVREAU Easy Access Panel, which caters for all accessibility needs, not only are you offering your staff top quality facilities but it can also help your organisation make a positive choice for the planet as well by eliminating single-use plastics within the office environment.
Keep the team on their toes
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of keeping active, not just for our physical wellbeing but also our mental health. Perhaps consider adding a one-way system to the office, not only will it tie in with any social distancing measures you may want to keep in place, it will also encourage staff to walk further to get around the office. You could also highlight local walks and cycle paths to prompt staff to enjoy their full lunch break by getting outside. Providing showers and changing rooms for staff to use would also be a welcome introduction by helping them to use their commute to get active.
Bring the outdoors inside
Introducing plants into the office can boost oxygen levels and also make the place feel more relaxing. This doesn’t need to be hard work as there are a multitude of low maintenance options available. Also consider natural furnishings like bamboo and cotton instead of synthetic materials and allow the light to match circadian rhythms.
Encourage breaks and create quiet
Many people have suggested that taking breaks during the day can actually increase productivity in the long run. Providing private areas for rest and relaxation will allow employees that much needed break and encourage rest and relax. Some employees also struggle to concentrate on work in a crowded office environment so you could try introducing private booths where employees can enter a state of deep focus to allow for greater concentration on work.