Understanding the Impact of Office Design on Employee Wellbeing

A research programme conducted by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Healthy Workplaces at the University of California, Berkeley showed that people prefer environments that fulfil their basic needs as human beings. This includes our workspaces, which is probably why more and more companies are paying attention to their office layouts. By adopting modern designs meant to improve the working experience, companies have found they can grow in-house talent, and increase productivity in the workplace.

An understanding of psychological drivers has become a useful skill in corporate management. In this article, we'll look at the seven main drivers that were pinpointed by the Healthy Workplaces Research Model, so you too will be able to implement the same strategies in your own office spaces.


The 7 Needs to Be Addressed by Modern Workplace Designs and Strategies


1. Availability of privacy


Many employees enjoy their privacy when working, so a lack of it may cause distress and prevent them from functioning at their best. Privacy is important when a worker wants to make a private call or to enable them to concentrate on completing a demanding task. This problem can be addressed by Activity Based Workstations that are meant to provide adequate privacy for different types of jobs around the office, such as making phone calls, spaces to hold small discussions or meetings, and of course private, work booths.


2. Allowance of flexibility


Flexibility around the office allows employees to have choices. It can either be in the form of work hours or even the location where they are allowed to work. Flexible work hours can optimise the worker's output and help them to stave off fatigue. When the office design offers flexibility, it means that the employees can move around with ease and do their work in different parts of the office, as opposed to sitting at the same desk every day of the week. Activity-based flexibility offering this much-needed variety has been shown to improve productivity overall, and the speed at which tasks are completed.



3. Familiarity and Predictability


Many things are changing in the economic sector, and in the world as a whole. Employees need to be confident that they are in control, despite all the changes. Changes around the office are inevitable especially when implementing modern designs; however, this doesn't mean that employees should suffer from the loss of their familiar workstations. More and more, companies are incorporating 'wayfinding tools' to help employees find their way around a changing office, and by so doing they are returning a level of predictability that many office workers need to feel comfortable and to perform at their best.


Predictability is greatly improved when managers pay attention to where individual employees sit. It can be a complicated process, however, whereby the right people have to be seated in the right place. Managers also need to understand the way people use specific areas so that they can introduce measures and streamline processes to increase overall productivity within the new office design.


4. Equitability


Traditionally, equity isn't easy to achieve, due to the essential differences between junior workers with those who are placed higher up the management chain. However, modern designs discourage this 'hierarchy effect' by providing equal seating spaces, even for staff more senior than the rest. A person's status has nothing to do with their physical location in the office.


5. Availability of comfort


Employees need to be comfortable in their environment, and that is what modern office designs are geared towards. Availability of comfort is achieved by having an adequate HVAC system, proper lighting, and furniture. Another critical aspect is emotional wellbeing. Features such as natural lighting, great views, and green spaces are becoming more common in modern offices, and are a way of attracting the necessary new talent into the workforce.


6. Connectivity


Human beings need to have social contact with one another, even in the workplace, and modern office designs are getting better and better at allowing them to achieve it. Managers encourage interaction between people or teams who can sit and chat with each other in a relaxed atmosphere. This can be done by assigning different seating areas on different days and allowing the teams to move around while undertaking the various tasks.


7. Safety Guarantee


Safety is a fundamental need. If someone does not feel safe then their productivity will suffer. Other than physical safety, it is also important for employees to feel emotionally safe in the working environment. A modern design promotes the sensation of security by developing teams and working spaces where the employees can come together and build strong relationships, thus enhancing the feeling of being protected.


Why Modern Office Designs Should Speak to the Wellbeing of Workers


There are a number of reasons why it is better if companies have a good understanding of what their employees can gain from implementing an office design that meets their basic needs. These include:


Improved health as employees get to move around a lot, which in the long run can help them to feel more relaxed and even help them sleep better. Increased job satisfaction brought about because they have a say in deciding where they sit, how and when they complete tasks, and a choice of whom they interact with at work. Reduced stress thanks to green areas, great views, and flexibility around the office.


What Do Companies/Employers Gain?


71% of employees would rather have a modern designed office space and lose other benefits, according to CBRE. Modern designs encourage interaction between teams which leads to more collaboration and innovation.


More employees interacting on different levels leads to better mentoring opportunities which in turn increases drive and allows the juniors to learn from experience.

Employees are more motivated to show up for work and undertake their duties more diligently than before.


Modern designs are aimed at utilising available space to its max. This means companies can cut down on the amount of space that they need, hence lowering real estate costs. There is a lot to be gained on both sides that will not only lead to better results and higher profits but also create a generally healthy environment to work in, for both the employees and employers.

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