Five ways to ensure your workspace boosts your workers' wellbeing

Three Cambridge Network members have come together to research what great things are happening in Cambridge workplaces. Their report - Workplace Wellbeing: The contribution of the physical workplace to worker wellbeing - was launched today and concludes with five recommended ways to boost the wellbeing of workers in your workplace.

 

For anyone tasked with improving wellbeing at their workplace, it can be difficult to know where to invest time and money. You can find yourself looking at a wide range of issues - from mental health support, ergonomic desks, employee safety policies or the tax implications of the cycle to work scheme. So how can employers use the physical workplace to boost workforce wellbeing?

An effective workplace wellbeing strategy considers four elements – individual resilience, the challenges of the job, the environment and the organisation’s culture. When these elements are considered together, employers were more likely to benefit from improved productivity and performance as well as higher employee retention and lower absence.

The research was a collaboration between Kelly Drewery, Business Psychologist at Talent Glue, Lizzie Duckworth from Cambridge Plant Interiors and Richard Blount from COEL. Their report Workplace Wellbeing: The contribution of the physical workplace to worker wellbeing shares their findings from a survey conducted with over 70 Cambridge-based employers and found that 62% of people felt resilient when faced with change happening at work. Resilient people more often had a view of nature from their workspace, they had social space where they could meet with others or a manager who cared about their wellbeing.

Of course, simply having a well-designed workplace will not equate to good workforce wellbeing unless there are supporting factors such as access to flexible working or good communications. The 11% of survey respondents who suffered from low resilience were more likely to feel in an ‘always on’ culture - affected by working excessive hours, never tuning out of emails, having ‘crunch periods’, and conflicting work priorities.

The authors say: "For anyone tasked with improving wellbeing at their workplace, we would recommend thinking about what you are trying to communicate to employees about valuing their time, their safety, and their wellbeing. Our top tips for improving workplace wellbeing that you might want to try include:

  1. Use the walls to communicate what the organisation values about its employees – team photos, awards won or murals. Provide symbols that show you care about employees – plants, healthy snacks, breakfast or a weekly fruit basket all help ensure that your workforce are not going for long periods without eating and as a result feeling fatigued and exhausted. Plants can transform an office environment aesthetically and cleanse the air of the harmful toxins that can affect wellbeing.
  2. Encourage staff to build in time to take a walk outside during the day. Maybe, you could host meetings outside where possible to gain access to fresh air, stretch limbs and combat the strains that can be felt from sitting at a desk all day.
  3. Offer options to employees about how and where they work. Consider implementing flexible working hours where this is operationally possible. Where the time and location is fixed, make sure the team can personalise the space in a way that is compatible with the company image and the team's needs.
  4. Reflect on the social space in the office. Creating a relaxation area brings more integration between staff and allows them to re-energise themselves. Encourage people to use this space for informal meetings.
  5. Use aesthetics to communicate what the organisation values about its employees. The furniture says a lot about whether employees are valued - ensure this fits the physical needs of the staff such as desks which allow you to work whilst standing or sitting. Make sure that the lighting adequately provides for people's needs.

"You can also hear more about our research on a recent Google hangout."

Image:  Spotify's Cambridge office

Notes

Our research involved people from over 70 businesses in the Cambridge region. The results of our survey and the input from the case studies have highlighted some fascinating insights into ways to improve the working environment and increase work satisfaction for employees. The research started as a collaboration between Kelly Drewery, Business Psychologist at Talent Glue, Lizzie Duckworth from Cambridge Plant Interiors and Richard Blount from COEL. We are all, in our different ways, helping organisations to increase wellbeing in the workplace. Cambridge Plant Interiors provide interior landscaping, trees and plants for commercial and business sectors and COEL Office Furniture are commercial interiors specialists.

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