The days of the office needing to provide little more than a desk to sit behind and a water cooler for a bit of downtime chat are long gone. Today, the right workplace environment is key to attracting, retaining and motivating talented staff.
That is why HR directors are playing an increasingly prominent role in office location and design. So what should the HR profession be looking for from office developers and landlords?
Is the simple answer a workplace that contributes to better employee wellbeing – defined by The Global Wellness Institute as “the right to work in a manner that is healthy, motivating, and edifying”?
Andrew Tobin, from Lendlease, and Project Director at International Quarter London, explains, “Work is no longer limited to the office and technology has made it more difficult for employees to switch off.”
In 2016, according to the ONS, Britons took 137 million sick days, with many being due to mental health issues, costing employers millions in lost manpower.
“The key to overcoming this is helping employees to be healthier, happier and more productive in their workspace. Simple solutions include increasing exposure to natural light and fresh air.”
According to Sleep Health, exposure to natural light is critical for healthy sleep patterns. Sleep matters, because treating sleep problems reduces the chances of somebody suffering from depression or anxiety.
A Harvard study also found strong links between good indoor air quality and productivity. But that when it comes to office design, the impact of air quality on health and productivity is often an afterthought.
“We have put fresh air and natural light at the heart of our workplace design for International Quarter London (IQL), one of London’s largest new regeneration projects adjacent to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford”
At 12 Endeavour Square, the new home to the FCA and Unicef UK:
- A triple glazed closed cavity façade with floor to ceiling windows maximizes natural light and views across the Olympic Park
- Innovative cladding also monitors the position of the sun and adjusts blinds accordingly, keeping temperatures comfortable without compromising natural light
- 100% fresh air is delivered via a ventilation system that allows outdoor air to be circulated through the building
The Key to Employee Wellbeing
The best opportunities for creativity and restoration often come away from the desk. Research shows it is unhealthy for employees to spend too much time at their desks because their brains and bodies don’t get a break.
“Google, Red Bull and Lego are companies regularly cited for having offices that promote creativity and wellbeing. What they all have in common – in addition to funky furniture – is that they inspire spending time away from the desk”
“At IQL, there are open communal spaces for group activities and working together, with quieter, zones for individual work. It’s designed to breakdown old hierarchies and silos, improve productivity and heighten employee engagement and wellbeing.”
Exercise is also important. Research shows that exercising just 20 minutes a day cuts the risk of developing depression by one third, so could help employers reduce days lost to ill health.
“Modern workspaces should make it easy for staff to exercise too. Of course, incorporating gyms may not be possible, but this shouldn’t matter for those prepared to think differently.”
“At IQL we have routes for walking meetings, and an online portal for people to sign up to events like exercise classes.”
“When making decisions on workspace HR professionals can and should take all these considerations into account,” Andrew concludes. “And they should expect developers and landlords to create places where the employees of today and tomorrow can be happy, healthy and productive.
Discover more about how Lendlease are improving the global skyline here.