Monday, 28 October 2019 15:12

How current workplace trends are impacting the office environment

    Trends in the workplace may, like trends in any other market, come and go, but the ones we are currently seeing appear to be here to stay. As the generation gap in the workforce increases, the need to change office designs to cater for this change also develops.

    Here, KI discusses the main trends in the world of workplace design, how they’re implemented and the boost they offer offices as well as their employees.

    Active design

    One of the most promising trends of recent years is that of ‘active design’. As a result of becoming increasingly conscious of the impact our workplaces have on our wellbeing, organisations are reflecting on how they can support and encourage healthier practices. This must include, yet go beyond wellness programmes in the workplace. The nine principles of ‘active design’ reflect the best ways to implement this trend and the results that can be achieved.

    1. Implement daylighting

    Access to natural daylight is known to improve mood, alertness and overall wellbeing while helping to regulate circadian rhythms and reduce absenteeism and attrition.

    2. Create a variety of workspaces

    Unassigned workstations allow people to get up and move between different settings based on their personal preferences or the task at hand. An office landscape rich in variety and choice will improve productivity and lower stress levels, whilst encouraging movement between spaces.

    3. Encourage face-to-face communications

    Face-to-face interaction over electronic communication promotes movement and increases team building. This practice can be as simple as locating employees on one floor, with clear sightlines to one another.

    4. Offer healthy food options

    Providing healthy snack options, including vending machines, encourages people to move while a central cafe and lounge space promotes interaction during meals and break times. It also provides a much more attractive alternative to eating at a desk.

    5. Encourage movement whilst at work

    When it comes to encouraging daily activity, employers are getting more creative. Some now provide walking paths and even encourage walking meetings, which have been shown to increase creativity.

    6. Design flexible, open multi-use spaces

    Innovative solutions for getting more out of available space will improve wellbeing without adding pressure to real estate costs. A conference room could be turned into a yoga studio or a games room that supports wellness programmes and encourages team building.

    7. Inspire people to take the stairs

    Make your staircases visually appealing, and people will be subconsciously drawn to them. Well-designed and intentionally located staircases provide an excellent alternative to escalators or lifts. What’s more, minimising the use of lifts has a dramatic effect on reducing energy consumption.

    8. Incorporate height-adjustable work surfaces

    Perhaps one of the most readily recognisable principles of active design is the use of sit/stand desks. Much research has pointed to ‘oversitting’ as a major contributor to poor metabolic health. This doesn’t have to end at the workstation, it can be carried through to meeting rooms, cafe areas and breakout spaces.

    9. Let’s go outside

    Creating an outdoor space, whether a roof terrace or ground space, with plants and comfortable furniture, can allow staff to find good daylight and ventilation. Wireless technology makes it possible for us to work from anywhere, so take advantage of any available outdoor space by making it inviting and engaging – people will instinctively be drawn to it whenever possible.

    Biophilic design

    The trend of ‘biophilia’ relates to the hypothesis which states that humans have a deep-seated association to natural environments. Essentially, our brains are hard-wired for nature. An environment with biophilic design makes the most of natural elements including plants, nature sounds, natural light and the use of natural materials such as wood or leather.

    Biophilic design has been shown to have economic, health, cultural and environmental benefits. But it’s not just merely the presence of nature, but the content within the scene, its configuration and associated semantic content.

    Research from various fields, including neuroscience and endocrinology, show the crucial role that experiencing nature has on our wellbeing.

    In as little time as five to 20 minutes in a biophilic environment, a positive restorative response can be triggered.

    These responses include:

    • A decrease in blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones
    • An increase in self-esteem and mood
    • Enhanced cognitive function, concentration, memory and attention.

    Ergonomic design

    While not a trend as such, this type of office design has paved the way for progressions in wellbeing for employees. Ergonomics focus on working conditions and how they impact staff. Typically, this refers to equipment and furniture, including sit/stand desks and chairs.

    These items of furniture have been designed in a way that promotes movement (and, therefore, increases blood circulation) or encourages correct posture, and subsequently helps to reduce the number of complaints due to aching backs and necks. As a result, employees can concentrate better because they are less likely to be distracted by discomfort. This, in turn, aids productivity and overall staff wellbeing.

    However, if employees aren’t given the appropriate instruction on how to use the ergonomic equipment, then the full benefits cannot be reaped, and the results that were hoped for won’t be achieved.

    Overall, the workplace trends of today seem to be gathering momentum and are being implemented into offices and workspaces everywhere. However, while they may appear to be simple to implement, it goes without saying that each one still needs careful thought and planning in order to gain the best results.

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