Our Interior Architectural Designer, Emily Waters, takes a look at this topical issue in our latest blog…
As employers, we all have a duty of care to our staff. That of course is the bare minimum, and most companies do a great deal more to provide comfortable, functional and inspiring workspaces. But there’s a growing body of evidence looking into just how crucial a component interior design can be in the health and wellbeing of your workforce, and even your future workforce.
At the most basic level, the working environment impacts us physically. Staff need an adequate amount of room free from hazards in which to carry out their jobs safely. And legislation regulates the temperature of workplaces because we know that all of us have an optimum range in which to feel comfortable and function well. If we’re too hot, at best it can affect our concentration and at worst we may pass out. If too cold, we can become fatigued.
So, most modern workplaces are built with air conditioning as standard, along with plenty of windows for natural light, and high ceilings to give a sense of space.
Beyond the physical
It’s widely recognised the working environment can have a psychological impact too. We spend so much of our time at work, a place of at least some inevitable stress, so it’s vital the physical space around us is used to reduce the impact of that wherever possible.
This is why certain colours that have been found to be calming or stimulating on the senses are chosen, whether in bold blocks or more subtly, with different hues used for meeting rooms and conference spaces than communal kitchens and canteens.
Similarly, plants and flowers have long been placed in office environments or hotels to add a striking wow factor, and because they produce oxygen, they have the added advantage of improving air quality. Because of these benefits, many buildings and public spaces, such as the pollution-busting moss tree recently installed at Newcastle’s Haymarket, now use the principles of bioliphic design to bring elements of nature into urban or indoor areas.
More than this, the overall design of a premises can encourage the people working there to take greater care of their own health, for example by cycling or running to work if a shower and/or secure bike store is provided. Areas that promote calm, such as prayer and meditation rooms, and even yoga studios are now frequently a feature of the modern workplace.
A design created with wellbeing in mind can truly add value to your business above and beyond the initial investment. Team members who find their surroundings pleasurable are likely to remain focused while in them, and therefore get more done.
Designing for wellbeing makes commercial sense because of the positive boost to collective productivity, but a well thought out workplace can also help a business hold onto its staff, minimising future recruitment costs, as well as helping it stand out to potential new starters.
And one size doesn’t fit all. Many building owners and developers now provide a blank canvas, with flexibility, such as through the use of lightweight partitions, built into the layout for easy and inexpensive customisation by tenants. This is especially important in cases where the space may need to accommodate future business growth.
A great example is the work we recently completed on Mediaworks’ new 10,000 sq. ft. office space at The Watermark in Gateshead, ready for its relocation. This fast-growing digital marketing agency required a fully bespoke solution for the open-plan, three storey premises, with the capacity to add a further 40 or more individuals to its team in the coming years.
Our fit-out included a host of innovative, creative and space-saving features with many factors taken into account, not least the health and happiness of Mediaworks’ wider team and clients. Bleacher seating is multi-functional in that it provides an informal breakout area for individuals and small groups, while it can also be used for large scale training seminars and presentations when needed. Similarly, double and single glazed partitions reduce the impact of noise without interrupting the flow of natural light through the space.
The new design, which combined strong brand elements with practicality and great aesthetics, gained coverage in several local business publications, generating speculative enquiries from a number of people keen to join the Mediaworks team.
If you build it, they will come
All of this goes to show that in the same way our style and clothing choices can reflect our individual personalities, the design of a building can say a lot about the culture and values embedded in the business using it.
Not only do we have a responsibility to our staff to give them great places to work – it’s now arguably the central factor helping differentiate us from the rest.
Ongoing improvement has evolved beyond simple efficiency savings; the commitment towards continually reaching for better can be felt in every wall and every floorboard. And whether you’re a space designer, business owner or landlord, the rewards can be just as far-reaching.