Office Design – The impact of smart interiors on wellness in the workspace

Don’t you find it jarring when people call the office a “second home” and their team a “family”.

They’re not. And as Jason Friend and David Heinemeier point out in “It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy at Work”, nor should they be.

Unfortunately, the only reason the office is like home is because you never are home.

That being said, potentially more jarring is the belief that the office is a purely functional space to check into and get sh*t done. That it doesn’t matter what it looks like, feels like or says about us. That we can’t enjoy, find comfort in, or find inspiration from the spaces where we spend a third of our lives.

Office design has a profound effect on both the happiness and productivity of your team. Second home or not, it deserves a bit of love.

According to Forbes:

“93% of workers in the tech industry said they would stay longer at a company who would offer healthier workspace benefits, with options ranging from wellness rooms, company fitness benefits, sit-stands, healthy lunch options and ergonomic seating.”

It goes further than physical health benefits. With mental health platforms like Unmind on the rise in workplaces, the world is waking up to the importance of optimising brain and emotional health to get the best out of people.

Additionally, co-working culture — thanks to companies like WeWork and Huckletree — has forced companies to reassess their own spaces, competing not just with beer taps, motivating slogans, great art and artisanal coffee, but on a more profound design level with how these spaces make people feel: Free, productive, mobile, social, cool.

Experian headquarters in Brazil. Photo credit: mr.melinaromano

You only have to look at Airbnb’s new London office by Threefold Architects to see the investment and thought that companies are putting into their spaces. Sure, it could be partly a brand move. However, consultations between the architects and employees demonstrate other motivations:

“An extensive staff survey was undertaken to establish what each member of the team felt was their key priority for the new space in addition to providing us with a wish list.”

The wish list covered things like more meeting spaces and more privacy but also more holistic things like input on social spaces and better light.

Office Design
Airbnb office. Photo credit: Dezeen

There’s also some theory to back this up.

The WELL Building Standard™ (WELL) looks at the optimum conditions needed for healthier buildings:

All seven elements (Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind) are considered when building the best workspaces, whether that’s water fountains, air purifiers or natural light in place of strip lights.

You might want to use these seven verticals as a guide when editing your own spaces.

Making Changes at HomeHero

When teams grow, culture and environment starts to become a living, breathing beast that needs tending to. At HomeHero, our team jumped fairly quickly from fewer than ten to a full-house of twenty and we were soon forced to wake up to the need to make improvements in the space.

Going from mavericks who embraced a #startuplife of desk beers, long hours, and a smelly office that nobody noticed through their haze of deep work, we woke up to the fact that some of the talent being brought in didn’t seem to thrive in the same conditions and possibly needed more from the space than simply cracking a window to let the air in.

So gradually, with some cynicism, we made small changes — and saw almost immediate benefits.

Some quick fixes to borrow from us:

  1. Lighting is everything: We were used to having stark ceiling lights on at full blast. Until someone mentioned how harsh and clinical they were. So now we only turn on some of them, and, no joke, spirits have lifted.
  2. Office plants: We had grown used to living with a solitary cactus. Then we were put onto Patch, ordered some conveniently unkillable plants, put someone in charge of watering them, and have slowly been ordering more since. They have names, we move them around, it’s all rather sweet.
  3. Desk minimalism: People settle into their desks, we get that. But we had 3 month packages from Amazon stashed under desks, papers, chaps sticks, Christmas cards, bits of old paper EVERYWHERE. We needed some decorum. So by simply ordering minimalist white desk tidies and pen pots, desks started to look better and people starting taking more ownership of their spaces.
  4. Decluttering: Luckily we hired a new starter who is mad about decluttering. Quick win: Motivate the team on Friday afternoons to take any personal stuff like packages home, become pedantic about empty brown boxes lurking around after deliveries, and take down old brainstorming Post-its if there’s no purpose.
  5. Get rid of functional tools that aren’t used: We had spare coat racks, cereal boxes, lots of “should haves” in the office that simply weren’t used. So we tossed them. And for the things that are overused, like coffee machines, we tended to them a bit better.

No architects were brought in and we won’t be winning design awards any time soon. However, we saw immediate effects in morale and encourage you, no matter the size or culture of your company, to take a look around on a Friday and see what could be tweaked.

HomeHero is a digital home manager, taking care of your chores, bills, maintenance and admin, to free up your time for what matters most.

Find out more about us at www.homehero.co.uk and blog.homehero.co.uk

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