July 24, 2019

New trends in innovative office design that help boost productivity and well-being

It’s no surprise that an employee’s work environment has an impact on their health and well-being. Leading companies are applying innovative office design principles to their workspaces to help improve employee health and productivity. Read on for some of the latest trends.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “an office environment reflects and reinforces a business’s core values, through the placement of different teams and functions and design elements.”

It comes as no surprise that there are multitudes of conflicting conversations and information about workspace design. After all, no one workplace functions the same as another, and each environment benefits from different design and layout methods.

The newest office design studies show a variety of innovation opportunities that could significantly improve the health, wellness, and productivity of employees.

Below, we’ll delve into a few cutting-edge examples of how successful companies are equipping their workplaces with designs for the future.

Bringing nature into the workspace

Fast Company has cited research from King’s College London showing that exposing workers to nature – even for short periods – is a mood-booster in any office.

known as biophilic design, when nature is incorporated into an office environment, it connects employees to their surroundings. While not all spaces can adhere to each principle of biophilic design, various elements can be sprinkled into any given interior to enhance employee well-being.

Here are some common characteristics of biophilic designs:

  • Natural light
  • Vegetation
  • Living walls
  • Natural textures and materials
  • Nature views

Shedding new light on workplace performance

In a previous post, we discussed Michigan State University (MSU) studies that found working in dim light negatively affects the brain. MSU performed tests on Nile Grass rats with various light settings. When the lights were dimmed to mimic typical indoor lighting, the rats’ spatial thinking was hindered. Fast Company suggested that the findings could be applied to humans – in that the amount of light in the spaces in which we work has direct impact on the way we think.

Conversely, investing in proper lighting can elevate employees’ moods while making the workspace ambiance cheerful.

Another factor to consider is how employees’ 24-hour internal clocks – or circadian rhythms – are controlled by light hues. The idea, backed by decades of research, is that lighting influences our bodies’ internal clocks – including our energy levels and alertness. Too little, or too much, at different times of day, can cause our clocks to go out of whack, which can lead to things like poor sleep, low concentration, even depression. In the vein of this research, technology and artificial lighting can be used to create the quality lighting increases alertness and workplace productivity. Some companies have even begun testing and using lighting that supports employees’ circadian health.

Adding movement to boost productivity

While notions that sitting is the new smoking may be hyperbolic, doing so excessively still increases the risk of premature death and some chronic diseases by 10 to 20%.

Not being able to move in a congested workplace can also negatively affect creativity and productivity. Being active at work helps employees maintain overall wellness and can help recharge their energy and productivity.

Employees want the option to move as part of working in a healthy environment. In fact, the Fellowes Workplace Wellness Trend Report found that 87% of workers want their current employer “to offer healthier workspace benefits” – and that includes sit-stands and ergonomic seating.

Movement also helps with workplace productivity – even short walks around the office are refreshing and keep employees alert, which can lead to even more creative conversations and collaborations. Physical mobility in the workplace also acts as a catalyst in releasing work-related stress.

Modernizing the cube

In a day and age where office cubicles are viewed as antiquated, it’s worth noting that there are ways to freshen up and modernize the old-school design.

Some may wonder why an office would want to limit itself with cubicles, but not all workplaces operate efficiently in open spaces due to privacy and performance requirements. Fortunately, many modern cubicles are no longer stuffy and boxy.

For example, there are modular-style cubicles that bring flexibility to awkwardly shaped and smaller spaces. The bank of cubes helps maximize space while allowing a bit of flexibility for design, like bright colors or frosted glass partitions.

Related: The open office debate: if you do it, follow these basic rules

Recharging spaces

Employees aren’t robots and will, at times, require some rest to be their most productive. Recharge rooms provide employees with space for downtime to zone out, relax, or stretch.

Below are some innovative rest ideas being implemented in various companies:

  • Meditation rooms: The thinking is that it takes just five minutes of quiet mindfulness to help with concentration and focus throughout the workday. The room just needs enough space for a floor mat and a small table for music devices. For example, at its headquarters, Nike offers yoga rooms to help sustain energy levels.
  • Nap rooms: Sleep-deprived employees aren’t productive. All that’s required is a small, interior room big enough for a hammock or a comfortable couch. For example, Google provides high-tech sleep pods for employees logging long hours.

Silencing the noise with private work spaces

We’ve already discussed that some work environments aren’t conducive to an abundance of open space. Also, the desire to get away from all the noise of a given workplace isn’t just from employees who need to concentrate. It could also be for workers looking to escape the noise for better focus – or maybe just to make a phone call.

NPR reports that 74% percent of workers are distracted in open spaces. On top of that, people working in open areas are prone to taking more sick days. Interestingly, the Chicago Tribune declared noise pollution “the new second-hand smoke.”

Employers are increasingly taking these needs into account, designing workspaces that include soundproof rooms or booths. They also designate, for example, specific areas or rooms for quiet working.

Prioritizing design to foster a productive work environment

Office design should be a consideration in the overall employee experience, and is a tangible example of bringing a company’s culture to life. With a dedicated focus on office design, employers can take steps to positively impact employee health, wellness, and productivity.

Danielle Ng-See-Quan

Dani is the Senior Manager, Content Marketing at Ceridian.

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