With 20 years’ experience in commercial office design and build and a 5 star award for office design for the UK property awards 2017-18 under her belt, Lucy gives her insight into how the workplace needs to change to cater for the demands of 2021.
With the impact of the global pandemic causing working practices to change overnight, there is a question as to what the workplace of 2021 needs to look like, or even if it required at all.
This pandemic has caused all manor of health issues, from the virus itself to people being too scared to go to the doctors. Then there is our mental health, working from home does not work for everyone. There are those who have just graduated, who want to learn from those around them, who live in share houses in cities that are new to them. There are people living alone, struggling to motivate themselves every day, only talking to people in a virtual world. No matter what the personal circumstances, a workplace is more than a desk, it's about being with people, learning, socialising and making friends.
Within the updated WELL Standard one of the 2019 amendments highlights the importance of creating a community within your business.
The WELL Standard highlights the Intent of the community concept as:
The WELL Community concept aims to support access to essential healthcare, workplace health promotion and accommodations for new parents while establishing an inclusive, integrated community through social equity, civic engagement and accessible design.
A community is described in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘people living in one particular area or people who are considered as a unit because of their common interests, social group, or nationality.’ The concept highlights the importance of the work community, how we all interact with each other at work, and how it makes us feel to be a part of the company.
Therefore the office is not dead, it just needs to adapt to become the heart of the company again, where people can choose how and where they work.
In every workspace, we are surrounded by people with a common interest - the work that we do on a daily basis. However, workplaces do not always provide a space in which we can come together as a community. Different working styles require different spaces, but collaborative work settings are an essential feature of every office whether it be in breakout areas, kitchens or informal meeting spaces where the office community can come together. A kitchen is at the heart of the home. Why should we not make the kitchen the heart of our workplace?
Intelligent workplace design can encourage an active community. Understanding a company’s culture is key to understanding how they function as a community. It is important to analyse the culture at work and support it with well thought through designs.
We need to delve into our past to understand our culture. What originally bought the company together to create the workplace we now work in? Our origins and culture should be celebrated with relevant designs, local materials, and features from the natural environment to design relevant spaces for the people we work with.
The use of colour or the work of local artists will help set the mood in different workspaces. Green is proven to be mood-enhancing. When combined with the health benefit of greenery in the office, productivity increases. In the case of computer-based working, plants have been proven to increased productivity.
What makes your staff happy? How can we find the spark of human delight in them? We can get a better understanding of our staff by sending out surveys and conducting interviews. We can then share the results and discuss design solutions tailored to meet their needs. Everyone likes to know they have been listened to. For some people, it is the delight of having a good coffee in the morning in a community space and for others, it is having that coffee in a quiet and personal space. A flexible environment is required to meet the varied needs of a team and will help to reduce absenteeism and increase staff retention. Every time a business replaces a
salaried employee, it costs, on average, 6 to 9 months' salary.
If we can create a sense of community and belonging, people are more likely to want to come back and engage with others in the workplace. In a community people live, work and play together. By creating a community in your workplace, we can reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and attract and retain high-quality staff. A well-designed workplace will help create an environment where staff can thrive.
Author: Lucy Martin - Design and Project Consultant at McFeggan Brown
If you are working on a plan to get your workers back into the office, take a look at our blogs, Office Fit Outs Post COVID-19, Returning To The Office After COVID-19 and What Will Offices Look Like Post Covid-19?.