The disruption and social isolation caused by the pandemic has taken a huge toll on everybody. According to a meta-analysis by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, lack of social connection heightens health risks and has also found that loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.
The importance of remaining connected in the workplace, whether at home or at the office, has never been more significant. As we begin to tackle this next phase of returning to work, both employers and we as individuals have been presented with an opportunity to redefine how we approach our workplace wellness.
Returning to the Office
Making work attractive and providing reassurance to staff is key to encourage their return to work. Employers need to identify obstacles that may prevent or delay a return or require workers to remain away from the workplace. Temporary, medium or long-term adjustments may be required, e.g. a gradual build-up of hours.
In a recent webinar hosted by Spacestor, Natalie Engels, Design Principal of Gensler spoke about the ‘Mudroom’ concept where people bring their own mugs, keyboards, food to work.
We think there will be more of an emphasis on personal storage and lockers being more available to employees to reduce the stress of sharing items with the rest of the office. We have provided contactless swipe card lockers in the past which could prove popular.
We are also expecting to see a rise in the hub-and-spoke model where a company’s central headquarters, perhaps located centrally in a city, will have smaller offices or co-working spaces located in suburban areas where teams can walk, cycle or drive to work. This will help with the concerns surrounding public transport to crowded areas which people are often more opposed to than being in a controlled office space.
As we design our workplaces of the future, environmental practices and employee wellness which have already been a growing trend will become even more of a priority. A good example of this is the WELL v2 Standard which comprises of 10 categories: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind and Community. Even if a build project is not directly applying for this standard there are lots of good practises they should consider implementing.
Ultimately, companies will need to have a continued open and honest communication with employees about everything they can provide to ensure a safe environment. We believe there is a large portion of office workers who would like to return for some much-needed interaction with colleagues.
Working from Home
In 2019 of the 32.6 million in employment in the UK, around 1.7 million people were reported as working mainly from home. Only around 8.7 million people said that they have ever worked from home in the past; this is less than 30% of the workforce. Many of us now work from home due to the Coronavirus outbreak and the usual support we access in our workplaces may not be there for us, so how can we adapt to this ‘new normal’.
Finding your focus at the office can sometimes be difficult with distractions, but at home there are even more! It’s important to try creating boundaries if your home is your office and having a dedicated area of the house or your room for you to work from can help delineate your work time from your leisure time. If working in a busy area of the house, try to clear away your notes and laptop at the end of the day.
As work rate begins to increase, we very often power through the day and late into the evening to ensure everything gets done, but actual productivity can suffer. Make sure you are still taking lunchbreaks and eating in a different room from where you are working. Another highly recommended practice is to ensure you allow half an hour before work to exercise or relax with a coffee to allow some quiet time before the busyness of the day.
Research has shown during lockdown there was an increase in drinking alcohol but also an increase in the amount of people trying to quit smoking. We are all aware of the health issues surrounding smoking. But, it is often a useful way to step away from a task at regular intervals throughout the day, a chance to socialise and offer some relaxation. The fundamental practices here are actually quite good for wellbeing, but the cost to your health is not. Quitting isn’t easy, so support is available to help with the first steps including Hypnotherapy.
Having your home as your workplace can mean that work begins to take over and becomes dominant when inevitably things can get tough. As awareness of metal health and stress management continues to rise each year there are now so many different ways of getting support; for instance Mind or BACP. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
Have you considered a workplace ergonomic assessment for your home office? A correct sitting position with adjustable chair and screens is now standard. Our partners at Black and White Office Consultancy can arrange to conduct these for your team via video call.
We are expecting to see more design attention and focus on home offices. How can employers get the most out of their staff while working from home? Most companies probably did not have a work from home policy in place, now working from home will be a policy for most, so equipment and technology will need to be made available for employees at their homes.
If you need any further help or advice, please contact us.