How does your office impact your employees and guests?
Our offices are physical reflections of our companies and play a large role in how our employees and clients think about us.
Most companies want their offices to provide a sense of well being to any employee, client, or visitor. Most of us also want our office to showcase the work that we do and the accomplishments we have made.
Taking a step back to look at your office as if you were a new employee or client can give you ideas on where you can make changes. When we spend all day, five days a week in our office spaces, we often forget to notice the details or look for ways to improve the general appearance of them. Since we know where we need to go, we also don’t notice if some office features are hard to find or tricky to navigate. You can even ask a friend or folks from a neighboring business to come view your office to get feedback on the environment you have created. Ideally, the feedback you receive describes a welcoming office with a circulation flow that makes sense. If your feedback includes someone getting lost or turned around or maybe feeling uneasy, find ways to improve on that experience. You will also want to get feedback on if employees and guests perceive your office as clean and safe.
Providing a Sense of Well Being
The approach to creating an office that provides a sense of well being will be up to you and your operations team and any designers you may hire. There is no one proven design approach that results in a welcoming office space. I’ve included some images throughout this post of different types of office spaces including modern, minimalist, and some more homey offices. Our offices will always vary widely in terms of finishes, themes, sizes, etc. This makes sense, because no one company is identical to another, and our offices reflect our company values and identity.
Many businesses move into office spaces and are working with existing layouts and finishes but still have plenty of opportunities to make the “look” their own. If you are leasing a space, you may be limited on what improvements you can make. In a lot of situations though, renovations can be negotiated with your property owner. If you own your building, consider whether or not you have a sufficient budget to make improvements and upgrades when you need them.
This post will specifically explore office spaces and their ability to provide any occupants with a sense of well being both physically and psychologically. This sense may not seem measurable, but there are major efforts underway by thought leaders in this industry to make them so. There are a multitude of factors that affect well being including design, layout, quality, color, light, access, visibility, and so on. We will start by discussing the physical aspects of an office space.
Physical Well Being: Design Choices
Some of the initial choices office managers make in an office are the layout, type of furnishings, as well as the overall look. For individual businesses, these choices may look similar or vastly different. In general though, most offices need spaces for working, holding meetings, and taking a break. The layout, materials, and furnishings should support the work being done in the space and not make everyday operations harder or more complicated. For example, you shouldn’t have to rearrange furniture frequently to serve multiple purposes. You should also choose a layout that makes sense and is easy to navigate for anyone. Any furniture meant to be used everyday should be high quality and serve the ergonomic needs of the individual user. These intentional decisions allow your employees and guests to go about their workday with more physical comfort.
Additionally, choosing higher quality materials and furnishings often emit fewer or even no harmful off gasses prevalent in many products on the market. This kind of health and air quality information is found on the product itself or can be acquired from the manufacturer.
To provide more physical comfort, providing your employees with access to as much natural light as possible has plenty of advantages. Employees will, as a result, be more productive and healthier by adhering to their natural circadian rhythms. It is equally beneficial for your employees to have views and/or access to the outdoors. Viewing nature and getting a breath of fresh air on a balcony or via operable windows can improve employees’ mood, stress level, and overall productivity.
Psychological Well Being
The approach to designing physically safer and healthier buildings has a tremendous positive impact psychologically. When your employees and guests understand the efforts you take to improve their building and its air quality and physical environment, you can expect more trust and, oftentimes, better employee retention. You may not be in the business of healthy buildings or ergonomics, but it is vital that these concepts are prevalent in your internal company culture.
Additionally, your approach to cleanliness can put employees and guests at ease. Following local and federal guidelines on sanitation, PPE wearing, etc. puts you in the best position to avoid passing on sickness. Even when we are no longer in the midst of a pandemic, be aware of high touch surfaces like elevator buttons and door handles. Speak with your building’s manager or janitorial staff and find ways to increase the cleanliness of your office space.
Your office is where employees spend many of their waking hours. You have the power to grant them a peace of mind that accompanies a healthy indoor environment with quality furnishings and equipment. From that point, your team can focus on work and accomplishing company goals.
Transitioning to Full Time Office Work
This post is being written in early 2022 while many companies have returned to full-time office work. As employees transition to being back in the office, office managers have a responsibility to make that transition easy on employees. In my opinion, workplaces are not returning to “normal”. Now that many employees have had a chance to work from home, their views on work-life balance may have changed. The pandemic has also changed some of our living situations and family responsibilities. So, office managers must communicate with their employees and recognize these changes and how they might affect in-office work.
I’m not suggesting that offices should be re-designed to mimic our living rooms. What I recommend is that office managers should take the best elements of working from home and incorporate them with office norms. This solution will look different for all workplaces, but major items to consider include how productivity is measured and rewarded. Also, are there opportunities for flexibility in schedules that allows employees to take care of their family and personal responsibilities as well as work tasks.
I know that as I work from home, I am very grateful for the ability to step outside and feel the sun on my face. It is a refreshing break from sitting in front of the computer. I can also take personal calls or run an errand in the middle of the day without scrutiny from colleagues. On the other hand, I make sure I am present for meetings and finish tasks on time and successfully to make this flexibility possible. My situation is just an example of remote work-life balance, and some of these advantages can be recreated in an office setting.
What’s Next in this Series?
In the next two posts in this series, we’ll cover the concepts of image and then inclusion. Our office environments can always improve on well being, image and inclusion, and these topics require regular fine tuning. Your needs will determine specific ways you can build on a great office environment for your team.
Well Being: A New Cornerstone for ESG Strategy and Reporting from Deloitte