Where you work is hugely important. Research has shown that your workspace can have a massive impact on your mood, productivity and general well-being.
We spoke to Lily Bernheimer, Founding Director of Spaceworks Consulting and author of The Shaping of Us to find out how to design workspaces that will help us to be more productive and creative.
For lily, it all comes down to BALANCE.
Biophilia has become a bit of an office buzz word in recent years with many co-working spaces and large corporations taking it into consideration.
Lily explains that contrary to popular opinion, biophilia isn’t just about adding a plant to your office reception.
”Biophilia basically refers to the innate human attraction for plants, trees but also other elements of the natural world like natural light and even animal life which can help inspire some of those same feelings of calm.
”When we talk about biophilia people often jump to the point of thinking we’ve got to put a bunch of potted plants in the office. I’m not saying that’s not a good thing to do or that it can’t be useful but what I recommend is taking a look and seeing what is in your office. If you work somewhere with lovely wooden floors and views of nature then you may not feel the need to bring plants into your space. ”
Atmosphere includes thing like light quality, air quality, temperature and smell. Lily believes that the way to achieve the perfect atmosphere is to have variety. An office temperature that feels right in June might feel too cold in December. It’s all about having options. The same goes for light.
”Have a variety of sources in the room. Have some lamps and an overhead light. Change what you use over the course of the day depending on how much light is in the room.” This will help your body adapt to different times of day as it mocks the sun’s movements.
An office layout can have a huge impact on your work environment. The rise of hotdesking in modern workspaces means that fewer employees have a say over where they can sit. Lily believes that your preferred seating arrangements are tied to your personality.
”People with different personalities may have different tendencies in terms of where they feel most comfortable sitting. Extroverted people really crave social stimulation. They may be most comfortable sitting in the centre of the room. More introverted people are often more comfortable sitting on the periphery of the room.”
Amenities are the facilities and features of the building you are working in. ”Our well-being at work is effected through nutrition, fitness, rest and ergonomic support,” explains Lily.
Your work environment should have everything you need to lead a healthy and happy life. Things like proper back support, chill out areas and having access to healthy food can make a huge difference.
Lily recommends that employees actually use kitchens and eat lunch away from their desks. ”People tend to eat more healthy and more consciously when they’re eating with other people. If your workspace encourages you to be active throughout the day in various ways that’s also good. If you’re sitting far away from the printer or the restroom and you’ve got to get up and take a long walk that could be a good thing.”
Noise is always a hot topic in offices. While one person will happily listen to blaring rock music all afternoon, it might drive their colleague up the walls. To get over the challenge of working in an open plan office Lily recommends getting noise cancelling headphones.
”A lot of people find that a low level of background noise (maybe just a hum where you can’t hear clearly what people are saying but there is a sense of activity) can be good for productivity because it feels sort of exciting.”
Cohesion is all about feeling part of a united whole. This will have different meanings depending on where you work. If you work in a home office this could be having regular Skype calls with people in your team. In an office environment, it means doing things that create a sense of community like taking part in socialisers and staff lunches.
Personalising your workspace can help bring a sense of cohesion into your work life.
”Make sure it works for you in terms of how you’re organising all your paper and files. If you like a certain kind of colour add that in. If you have pictures of your family bring them to work. Personalising your desk has great benefits for wellness at work.”
Having an environmentally friendly workplace can have a bigger effect than you think. Lily explains that, ”When people engage in energy saving behaviours they also tend to have higher levels of well-being.”
While some factors may be out of your control you can do things like recycle your waste, buy a refillable water bottle and turn off your computer before you go home in the evenings.
Design is a huge factor to consider. It covers everything from colour to shape to materials. Your workspace should match your own personality and preferences while also matching the nature of your work and your organisation.
Think about it. When you walk into the Google offices you know what company the building belongs to. Your workspace should say something about the identity of your employer.
It’s a very individual thing which is why Lily has created the BALANCED checklist, ” You can go through it and pick out important factors that you can improve.” Now it’s up to you to make the decisions.