Employee wellbeing should be top of the agenda for any modern business. From cutting working hours to offering flexi-time, businesses need to consider the steps they can take to motivate and inspire their workforce. After all, it’s the performance of people which has the biggest impact on a business’ bottom line.
What many office managers and HR directors tend to forget though, is that the physical workplace also has a significant impact on the performance of those working there. A study conducted by Warwick Business School, for example, revealed that the scenic quality of our daily environments has a direct correlation on personal wellbeing.
It’s therefore unsurprising that a Ambius report found that UK office workers are craving to work in more beautiful and inspiring workplaces. Over half (56 per cent) claimed they felt disappointed by their office’s design after visiting another organisations’.
This article will explore the steps that employers can take to ensure the working environment responds to the #OfficeEnvy many UK workers are experiencing, using ‘biophilic design’ (a concept used within the building industry to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment through the use of direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place) principles to engage employee’s senses.
The biggest pain-points
Many UK workers feel like there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to the physical work environment they spend most of their time in. Two thirds said their office was in need of more natural light, with a lack of space, interesting décor, colour, and plants also leading to disappointment. In fact, almost two thirds claimed they would appreciate their office more if it had more natural elements, such as plants, daylight or exposed wood.
The research also found that employers are not listening to the needs of their staff. Over half of those wanting more inspiring offices said they have communicated this to their office manager or employer, yet the majority (61 per cent) saw no change as a result.
As extra motivation, it’s not just employees that are affected by poor office design; it can impact customers. A third (30 per cent) of office workers felt their office environment was turning off potential clients, prospects and staff from working with their business, impacting an organisation’s bottom line and ability to recruit.
Biophilia could be the answer
There are simple, practical changes that employers and office managers can implement to help improve the workplace in the eyes of employees. Tapping into humanity’s innate need to connect with the natural environment, a concept called ‘biophilia’, is a good place to start.
With 40 per cent of UK office workers spending just 15 minutes outdoors each day, it’s important for businesses to begin incorporating features that ‘bring the outdoors in’. Adding plants is one of the easiest steps any business can take. In addition to their aesthetically-pleasing and easy-to-maintain qualities, they can also reduce stress and anxiety. In some cases they even help purify the air.
Biophilic design trends don’t end there. Materials such as reclaimed wood can be used for office features like tables, room dividers, doors and floors, bringing a more authentic and natural feel to an office space. Even the use of natural stone, wood and moss can bring natural textures inside, similar to those found in the outdoor environment.
It shouldn’t come as a surpirse that social media has had a great impact on consumer expectations of office environments. With 3.484 billion active social media users around the world, the idea of an office being ‘Instagrammable’, or visually pleasing enough to share on social channels, is especially important to Generation Z. Our research found that 30 per cent of office workers within this 16-24 age bracket think employers should do more to make their office ‘Instagram friendly’.
It’s important that employers embrace the fact that social media has become a central part of people’s lives. Ambius’ survey found that the specific ‘Instagrammable’ features employees are most excited about include a rooftop/outside area, scenic views, exotic office plants, or even a cafe/bar. Creating an office environment that inspires people to share on social channels can aid with staff recruitment, especially amongst younger generations. This goes hand in hand with the obvious productivity and wellbeing benefits.
An uninspiring environment that doesn’t make employees feel comfortable or stimulate their senses is very unlikely to get the most out of its people. This in turn impacts how these employees, and therefore your business, performs. It’s time for HR directors and office managers to respond to the #OfficeEnvy many UK employees are experiencing, using biophilic principles to create a workplace that people love, and even feel proud enough of to post on social media.