The impact of the pandemic and cost of living crisis means that supporting employee wellbeing is more important now than ever before. In this blog post, we share how your office can help to support workplace wellbeing.
Mental Health Awareness Week took place 9 – 16 May shining an even brighter light on the importance of mental health support. Research from the World Health Organisation shows that during the first year of the pandemic anxiety and depression increased by 25% globally. While elements of the pre-pandemic world are starting to return, we do not yet fully understand the long-term impact it may have had on our mental health.
Alongside the pandemic we also have the emerging cost of living crisis. The cost of energy bills, housing prices and everyday expenses has now reached the highest level in decades. Understandably, we are already seeing mental health and wellbeing affected as a result.
Research from by Barnett Waddingham conducted in March 2022 shows 41% of companies consider mental health to be their biggest HR challenge. Many responsible employers will already feel a moral duty to support their employees through difficult times. But there’s a business benefit to doing so too.
Focusing on employee wellbeing has plenty of advantages for companies including better employee engagement, reduced sickness absence and higher performance. Put simply, happy employees are, more often than not, productive employees. It makes sense to make wellbeing a priority from both an ethical and commercial perspective.
When you think of workplace wellbeing, the first things that might spring to mind are benefit packages and increased flexible working. While these elements are an important part of the wellbeing suite, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of your office itself.
As staff start to return to work after the pandemic, providing a nurturing space for them to work can support their wellbeing. Alongside pandemic, cost of living or personal anxieties, it’s likely staff returning to the office might feel nervous after two years of homeworking. Reassessing your workplace for wellbeing will settle staff back in and support their mental health in the longer term.
So, how do you create an office design that supports employee health and wellbeing? The first thing to remember is that we all have very different preferences when it comes to the working world. We’ve also all been used to doing our own thing for two years. Creating lots of diverse spaces for different ways of working can really help to reduce anxieties around office working. Consider removing permanent desks and replacing them with comfortable seating. Introduce quiet areas for focused working or booths for telephone calls to manage noise levels. You could even install personalised temperature and lighting control which we talk about more in this blog post.
Biophilic design is another fantastic way to support employee wellbeing. Bringing the outdoors inside reconnects us with nature which has been proven to boost mood and increase productivity. To create a successful biophilic office you’ll want to include plants and other greenery. Alternatively, natural finishes and access to fresh air and natural light can create similar wellbeing benefits.
Lastly, don’t forget to cast a critical eye over your office to make sure it truly enables hybrid working. Many companies expect that meetings will predominantly take place in person with a small number of attendees joining online going forward. Reduce stress by making sure homeworkers can dial in for meetings easily and participate as if they were in the room. Big screens or similar are great for this. Failing technology (on either side) can quickly lead to feelings of frustration, anger and isolation.
If you’d like to redesign your existing office space and put employee wellbeing front and centre, get in touch. We’d love to help you create a happy space for you and your staff.