Having happy employees who enjoy their work environment not only makes work a lot easier, it also often leads to a boost in productivity. Ensuring employees’ well-being is prioritised can lead to healthier employees, which can save a business money in the long-run. According to PWC, absenteeism is estimated to cost Australia $7 billion dollars each year, while, according to CIE, presenteeism (attending work while sick or otherwise unable to work to regular standards) costs the country around $34.1 billion per year.
There are many different ways that employers can improve an office to make it more positive on the well-being of employees. Below we have listed a few ideas that can be incorporated into an office environment, with the aim of improving employee well-being.
Humans love nature! It’s why we often feel at peace dipping our toes in the ocean or taking a walk through the trees after a stressful day. There are ways to incorporate this feeling of nature into an office environment, too, something which is often referred to as biophilic design. Using technology to incorporate biophilic elements into a workplace has been shown to enhance focus and creativity, while reducing stress. Biophilic elements are those designed to incorporate or imitate natural themes such as the presence of plants and water, views, or objects designed after natural structures and products.
The positive psychological link between human beings and nature is well-documented. In a recent Japanese study for MIST, subjects’ responses were compared when they walked through a forest setting to when they walked through an urban setting. For the natural setting, the blood pressure levels of participants’ were lower, their pulse rates decreased by 3.9 to 6 per cent, and their salivary cortisol (a stress hormone) decreased by a whopping 13.4 to 15.8 per cent. There are many studies like this which seem to point towards the positive impact nature and natural elements can have on a person’s health and well-being.
Making the most of our natural rhythm
Continuing on from the discussion on incorporating natural themes into an office environment, using natural lighting in offices has also been shown to have positive effects on employees’ well-being. Like all living things, humans have a circadian rhythm. This is a 24-hour cycle that we rely on to tell us when it is time to sleep. The circadian rhythm has also been linked to cell regeneration, hormone production, and eating patterns.
Usually, when it is dark, the brain will signal that it is time to sleep, and when it is light the brain will let us know that it is wake-up time. However, in our modern world, we have invented a lot of technology that counteracts this. Issues with mobile phone screens and electronic devices making it difficult to sleep aren’t uncommon, but simply not being exposed to enough sunlight in a day has been shown to play a factor in disrupting this pattern too.
A 2013 study of natural daylight in the workplace assigned groups of workers to different spaces to monitor the outcomes. The study found that those who worked in offices with windows received 173% more natural daylight and slept 47 minutes more, on average, than the participants who did not have windows in their workspace. These results show that incorporating natural lighting into a workspace may have great benefits to the well-being of employees.
Innovative design ideas and encouragement
There are many offices around the world that are incorporating positive designs into their buildings aimed to maximise the well-being of staff. Take Delos in New York, for example. The building has a terrace filled with native plants that attract caterpillars and monarch butterflies. This terrace aims to encourage employees to eat their lunch in the fresh air, rather than at their workstations. The company also incorporates sensors into their design, with one that monitors how many times people go up and down the stairs, creating a pattern on a digital screen to show the results.
An initiative named the International WELL Building Institute was launched in 2013, with the aim of addressing health and well-being in the building and design sphere. WELL has a list of seven concepts for consideration when designing a building; these include water, nourishment, air, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. There are three possible certification levels (Silver, Gold and Platinum) that can be given to the building, depending on how many of the criteria are met. The initiative hopes to encourage the creation of healthier spaces.
Article by Theodora Evans
Theodora is a passionate blogger from Sydney and she is someone you would call an IT nerd that travels the world. Also, she takes great interest in housing and helping people. Besides that, she loves martial arts and enjoying the nature.