Wednesday 25th November 2020 Ensuring Employees Are Happy When Returning to Work

It’s been a tough year for businesses across the globe, with the number of people working from home rising from 21% to 25% in October, and tighter lockdowns only strengthening this trend. By the same token, the news that Pfizer’s vaccine is 90% effective has given the stock market a major boost, indicating that the world may well be in the very initial stages of the return to ‘normalcy’. For many workers, the end of the pandemic will involve returning to their respective offices after many months. How can employers ensure that the happiness factor is high so that teams can give their all to achieve company goals together?

The Effect Of Cleanliness On Mood

There is an inexorable link between interior design and mood, with researchers at DePaul University finding that clutter can be “so overwhelming that it chips away at your well-being, relationships, and more.” Cleanliness and happiness are closely linked, with numerous studies showing that clean and tidy spaces boost concentration, are more inviting and attractive to both internal and external clients, and have a positive impact on morale and productivity. A clean office can also boost the feeling of safety. All offices should be professionally cleaned, with special attention being paid to bathrooms, shared kitchens, and other spaces that can have a higher germ quotient.

Training Staff On Respectful Communication

Leaders and employees alike can benefit from the completion of courses on skills such as conflict resolution, communication, stress management, and self-care. Even offices that “return to normal” will have employees who may continue to be stressed for various reasons – including having to accept lower workloads or salaries, mental conditions triggered by collective worry in recent months, the difficulty of adapting once again to in-office work, and, in some cases, grief from friends or family members being affected by the pandemic. Supervisors should be trained to be patient and to understand changes in employee behaviour, taking an assistive rather than a disciplinary approach. They should also ensure that employees experiencing stress know whom to turn to for support. 

Policy Changes

Companies can also consider reassessing policies, making changes that may be beneficial to both the company and its employees. For instance, managers may decide to let part or the entirety of the team work remotely if goals are being achieved, and this means greater flexibility and reduced transport costs for employees and lower office rental costs for employers. The company could set aside dedicated days for important meetings and social get-togethers to ensure communication flows and team spirit is kept intact. Managers and supervisors might also decide to allow employees to take mental health days off in addition to sick leave for a specific time period.

Embracing Stress Busting Activities At Work

There are many ways that employees can make daily life more fun and less stressful for employees. Just a few ideas include offering yoga or mindfulness meditation for teams at work, organising team building activities, and holding ‘self-care talks’ once a month or at regular intervals. Studies have shown that holistic activities such as yoga and mindfulness meditation have powerful effects on mood, and are able to lower stress levels almost immediately. Team building and social activities should be held outdoors in green areas on sunny days. Studies have shown that as little as 10 minutes in a natural area can make people feel happy and lower the effects of physical and mental stress.

When the era of new normality truly begins and many employees can begin to work in offices again, supervisors and managers will need to be aware of the mental health impact caused by the global health crisis. They can help to counter these impacts in many ways – including simple strategies such as cleanliness and tidiness. Staff training is also key; those who are struggling mentally should be free to discuss their issues openly and know who to turn to. Finally, companies can set up new policies that promote flexibility and happiness, and bring a little light into the office through fun activities that focus strongly on stress relief.


This is a guest post by freelance writer, Lucy Wyndham

Friday 04th September 2020 Biomimicry — Not all sharkskins and honeycombs
Thursday 30th January 2020 Changes you’ll probably see in the workplace in 2020

The last decade has seen a number of changes in the structure of the average workforce. Advancements in technology, attitudes, and cultures are changing what it means to be a worker and what it means to run a business. As we are now into a new decade, we’ve seen hints of trends that will appear to be the new norm in the coming years. Here are some changes you are bound to see in 2020. 

Four-day work weeks

People have explored the idea of a four-day workweek for quite some time, but Microsoft Japan’s recent experiment proved it to be a success with productivity jumping by 40%. Not only did they see more work get accomplished and more goals met, meetings were also more efficient, more energy was saved, and workers were happier. At the centre of this concept is the idea of a work-life balance, and perhaps we will see more companies following suit. 

Dependence on technology

Throughout the years, technology has established itself as an integral part of various businesses and industries, so much so that even during the hiring process some HR teams rely on it to streamline their recruitment efforts. In Comeet’s post on ‘What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?’, David Markowitz discussed the use of this cloud-based technology to increase the overall efficiency of operations. Modern ATS can revolutionise the process with real-time communication, automation, and analysis. 

Remote set-up

Workplace Unlimited’s online survey found that the most important workplace condition among employees is related to flexibility. The option to work remotely falls under this, and more organisations are considering this as a viable option and smart management strategy––reducing costs and driving revenue. This also allows workers to become more productive and engaged as they can perform at their optimal levels when and where they choose best. 

A greener office environment

With environmental degradation and climate change on the rise, it makes sense for big entities like offices to make greener choices. Whether this is through minimizing paper usage, forgoing fax machines, recycling, or opting for LED bulbs, these small practices have greater weight when the entire company undertakes them. It is not only a good practice but contributes greatly to the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility, which today’s workforce deems an important factor in their choice of work.

A disappearing ‘corporate ladder’

The corporate ladder was once an ideal career trajectory among workers who equated climbing it to success. Solomon Thimothy of OneIMS has found that this hierarchal culture is beginning to change in correlation to people’s work attitudes. Diverse workforces show that people find success in avenues other than promotions: exploring other hobbies, having “side hustles,” and not solely making work the centre of their lives.

This post was contributed by Megan Brennan.

Thursday 04th October 2018 Why Nature Matters

Continuing our series of guest blogs by speakers and supporters of our up-coming Workplace Trends Autumn Conference in London: People, Place, Performance, Vantage Spaces write about biophilia, health, wellbeing = business efficiency. 

We know that the simplest things make a real difference. Walking into work to the smell of freshly ground coffee. Connecting with nature through green walls and plants.
Biophilia is described as ‘an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world’ and means  “love of life” from bio- + -philia. There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that by incorporating simple changes into our working environments, we can increase our health and wellbeing which in turn impacts business efficiency.
Biophilic design recognises that we are unconsciously connected to nature and that this connection within the spaces that we live and work in can positively influence our physical and psychological health.
This biophilic principle is one of the most flexible aspects when it comes to design. Typically, colours that occur naturally (especially green) are used in conjunction with materials such as cork or distressed wood.
Simply adding a touch of greenery with something as small as indoor plants can have major positive benefits for employees, enabling them to feel more in tune with nature and making their day simply better.
There is a variety of ways to incorporate greenery into the workplace in addition to floor standing or table top solutions. Living or replica walls, moss walls, hanging plants, wall art and planter tops are now a staple in the modern office due to wellbeing becoming such an important factor for employees.  In fact, Human Spaces study The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace (2015) reports that plants are the second most wanted element in the workplace.
Creating a more natural environment in your office is said to enhance employee performance, including memory retention, reduced staff turnover and deterring stress related illness. Being able to enjoy natures beauty and feel more connected to the outside world can ultimately lead to happier and healthier employees and visitors alike.
Another way to ensure natural wellbeing is by encouraging employees to stay hydrated throughout the day. A reduction in dehydration levels of as little as 2% of body weight can influence mood, leading to greater feelings of fatigue and reduced levels of alertness1.  Investing in a water cooler for your employees can serve as a reminder to keep hydrated while also preventing the need to purchase bottled water.
The workplace today is constantly evolving, and the moral views and wellbeing requirements of the modern worker are changing with it. Employers are having to keep up with the demand for the changing office but these ‘simply better’ and easy to implement changes will add instant results into your place of work.
1 Masento NA et al. Effects of hydration status on cognitive performance and mood. Br J Nutr 111(10):1841-52

Guest post by Vantage Spaces,
delegates and exhibitors at Workplace Trends London on 17 October 2018.

Wednesday 19th September 2018 Biomimicry: Not Just Sharkskins and Honeycombs

me picIn our series of guest blogs by speakers and supporters of our up-coming Workplace Trends Autumn Conference in London: People, Place, Performance, conference manager Maggie Procopi discusses biomimicry and biophilia, which have been engaging topics of discussion at recent conferences.

Over recent years at our Workplace Trends Conferences we’ve been lucky enough to welcome Michael Pawlyn and later Richard James MacCowan to speak on biomimicry, as well as Bill Browning and Oliver Heath on biophilia.
They enthralled audiences with tales of how the natural world can solve human problems through design solutions (biomimicry) and by satisfying our innate need to connect with nature (biophilia).
But biomimicry is more than just the famous design solutions we hear about, like the stability, aesthetics and economies of the Eden Project’s bubble raft shapes, or Sharklet Technologies printing sharkskin patterns onto adhesive film, which repels bacteria and so is ideal for installation in schools and hospitals, or harvesting water in the desert like the Stenocara Beetle.
Biomimicry casts its net wider than just design. The human race has only been here a fraction of the time that nature has. We can look to the wild world for tips and best practice on people management and leadership. Just Google and learn – from how a wolf pack works to the way a beehive operates and ant colonies manage themselves.
Most interestingly for the workplace is that nature never throws anything away, unlike our largely linear economy (make, use, dispose).
In a 2010 TED talk, ‘Using Nature’s Genius in Architecture’, Michael Pawlyn illustrated a ‘close-looped system’ (circular economy) with the ‘Cardboard to Caviar Project’. Put simply, restaurant waste was turned into horse bedding, then fed to worms, which were fed to fish, whose caviar was then served at the same restaurant. Nothing is wasted, and the whole process is economically and environmentally profitable.
Over the past 10 years, PwC has systematically applied the principles of the Circular Economy to its business.  I’m especially delighted that Bridget Jackson from PwC will be sharing their experiences at our up-coming conference on 17 October 2018. It’s a story that has inspired BITC to create a Circular Office programme, with c. 75 companies now signed up to follow suit.
So as well as pondering the FM budget sheet, we need to take a hard look at the contents of our bins at home and work. What things need never be in existence at all (over-packaging, I cry!), what might be reused, what might be properly recycled?

Post by Maggie Procopi, event manager of the Workplace Trends and Design & Management of Learning Environments Conferences.

This article was originally published at FM World.

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Monday 10th September 2018 Why You Should Know About Visual Ergonomics

Jonathan BruneContinuing our series of guest blogs by speakers and supporters of our up-coming Workplace Trends Autumn Conference in London: People, Place, Performance, Durable’s Jonathan Brune introduces the concept of Visual Ergonomics.

Mega-trends like increasing digitisation, individualisation and urbanisation are rapidly changing the way we work. For example, it is no longer necessary to work in one place. Modern workplace designs and office furniture already strongly favour agile working, open office layouts and flexibility.

Workplace ergonomics

Ergonomic workspaces are playing an increasing role in today’s working world. Desk-sharing workstations must allow different users to adjust the desk height, seating and monitor position.
Acoustic systems are installed to absorb high noise emissions as well as improved ventilation and air-conditioning units to support better air quality.
However, lighting, which is also an essential aspect of workplace economics, often remains completely unconsidered.

Why we need ‘good’ light?

When planning a workplace, Lighting Designers often operate on the principle that the definition of ‘light’ is ‘enough to be able to see well and cope with the tasks that will be undertaken in the space’.
Yet, recent scientific research shows that ‘light’ is far from being sufficient to provide good vision. This becomes particularly significant when comparing people of different age groups.
As a result of the darkening of the eye lens with age, a 60-year-old requires approximately two to two and a half times as much illuminance as a mid-20-year-old to achieve comparable vision.

The importance of Biologically Effective Light

Everyone has a personal daily rhythm which is ‘circadian’, meaning that it is driven by light and roughly synchronised with day and night.
Clinical studies have proven that some modern LED lamps which can almost completely replicate the colour spectrum of sunlight have a biological effect on the production of the hormone melatonin, just like sunlight. So these lamps can give you the same biological ‘triggers’ as you get outside even when you are indoors.
Biologically Effective Light can:

  1. Provide the body with light signals which set its internal clock in an indoor environment
  2. Have a stabilising effect on our biological rhythm
  3. Help avoid the consequences of a disrupted circadian rhythm such as insomnia, irritability and lack of concentration
  4. Encourage longer and deeper sleep
  5. Encourage better wellbeing and performance
Are the current regulations for light enough?

Planning regulations exist for new and renovated buildings which ensure a minimum level of illuminance and uniformity of light distribution. But there are a few flaws in these principles:

  1. A single source of uniform light cannot be adjusted and therefore does not fit with the principles of agile working
  2. Uniform light does not consider that each user requires a different level of light illuminance to work
  3. They do not embrace the latest findings about the biological effect of light

So it can be argued that traditional lighting concepts are falling behind other areas of a workplace in adapting to modern working. They no longer fit the New Work Order. But increasing knowledge of the importance of Visual Ergonomics is set to change this.

What is Visual Ergonomics?

Visual ergonomics is providing flexible workplace lighting. Just as you can adjust an office chair to suit a user’s requirements, you can change the light over your work station.
Visual ergonomics allows you to:

  1. Individually adjust the light illuminance and colour temperature over your workspace
  2. Move the light to suit your working practices
  3. Use intuitive lighting solutions with presence and light sensors to turn lights on/off and adjust automatically

Unfortunately many lighting systems do not have these features as standard so remember to check and request them when specifying your lighting requirements.

Guest post by Jonathan Brune of Durable.
Jonathan will be speaking at Workplace Trends London on 17 October 2018. 

Thursday 23rd August 2018 The Next Big Step for the Workplace? Our Salute to Salutogenic Design

In this guest post Christopher Glass of workagile describes the concept of Salutogenic Design. 

What if health became the basis for judging every public space, every building, every workplace and every home?

  • What if every person asked as standard: How healthy is this space?
  • What if everything we build was seen as an opportunity to generate wellbeing?
  • This is the basis of Salutogenic design.
What is Salutogenic Design?

Carolyn-Rickard-Brideau explains salutogenic design as “A measurable aspect of design that can help people operate at peak performance and help them to maintain physical and mental wellbeing. It is the ultimate investment in people in an architectural sense.”

Coined by Anton Antonovsky, Salutogenesis links health with the ability to comprehend, manage and apply meaning to stress, understood as a “sense of coherence.” The higher the sense of coherence, the less negative the impact of stress will have on mental and physical health.  The three factors integral to a sense of coherence are:

  • Manageability: A person can make sense of the situation, problems or challenges that they face.
  • Meaningfulness: In the face of a challenge or stressful situation, a person has adequate resources at their disposal and that they trust, which can help them cope.
  • Comprehensibility: When faced with a stressful situation or challenge, a person will have the ability to seek meaning in it, and will do his or her best to overcome it.

Salutogenesis is thus most easily explained as the opposite to pathogenesis – fighting disease and illness once a condition has appeared. Whilst we hear a lot about fitness, managing diet and taking time to pause effectively in our day to day lives, there are more subtle aspects to the promotion of good health that are particularly relevant to the design of the workspace – daylight, sound, colour, ability to interact with nature, space, human interaction, empowerment, privacy and more. As people are likely to spend between 80,000 and 100,000 hours of their lives at work, it is critical that workplace design is a solutogenic design.

Dilani and many other architects, designers and theorists have begun to further explore Antonovsky’s salutogenesis theory and to approach architecture, interior design and urban design through a salutogenic lens. In doing so, they have provided useful framework to guide designers and planners who want to consider how the physical environment impacts wellness factors in order to promote health. Mapping design attributes to Antonvosky’s sense of coherence factors could look something like this:

  • Manageability: Aesthetic Elements, Natural Light, Green Environments, Stimuli, Interior design, Restoration and Ergonomic design
  • Meaningfulness: Social support and community, music, art, culture, gym (autonomy/freedom), pets, views, comfort, positive distractions
  • Comprehensibility: Way-finding (legibility of space), colours, nature, perception, landmarks, novelty

In workspace design, elements of salutogenic design are becoming apparent as designers create spaces that encourage activity, creating outside work spaces, making internal stairs more engaging to encourage their use, and laying out enriched environments that provide the variety and novelty that humans instinctively seek.

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The ideal spatial framework for salutogenic design is thought to translate into three key components: welcoming spaces for meeting and social exchange, familiar spaces for orientation and reassurance and quiet spaces for focus and/or restoration.

Designers are now beginning to understand the importance of designing restorative elements in buildings – these typically involve views to natural settings and biophilic elements that provide a sense of scale, offering a calming evolutionary memory which has been shown to reduce blood pressure and stress levels. These places provide a place for unconscious processing in the brain and allow a renewal of attention and focus.

How is Salutogenic design being evaluated?

Spaces are now being considered as complex ecological systems where salutogenic design intervention can lead to new structures of interaction, new resources, and individual, social, and organisational learning.

In the design world, Salutogenic design is being evaluated and endorsed through vehicles such as the Delos WELL Building Certification which focuses not just on those well-known elements of the wellness industry such as air, water and light but also elements associated with comfort, nourishment, fitness and mind. Salutogenic design has been shown to provide sensory design with high outputs, be cost-effective, sustainable and require very little maintenance.

How is Salutogenic design different from biophilic design?

Whilst biophilic design is about engaging with nature and natural elements to help with the restoration process, salutogenic design encompasses these elements and much more with the aim of encouraging active health, productivity and efficiency. It is easy to see why salutogenic design is beginning to represent international best and emerging practice in workspace design.

Workagile website-66

Guest post by Christopher Glass of workagile.

Workagile will be at our Workplace Trends London conference on 15 October 2019. 

Monday 13th August 2018 Biophilia for Workplaces and Healthcare – Bridging the Gap

Copyright the first of our guest posts from supporters and contributors to our Workplace Trends London Conference on 17 October 2018, Vanessa Champion of Argenta Wellness takes a look at biophilia for the workplace and in healthcare.

For many of you reading this article, you’ll likely know all about it, or at least have heard the terms “biophilia” or “biophilic design” used in various magazines or newspapers, in fact I see it’s recently been covered in media outlets as random as NBC and the Daily Mail.
Companies like yours and mine, if you subscribe to these wonderful Workplace Trends updates, know the huge benefits that nature, biophilic and human-centric design can bring, not only to our health and wellbeing but also to companies’ staff retention and bottom lines. And it is also likely that you, like us, are creating some amazing spaces and transforming lives.
At Argenta Wellness, we were established after witnessing first hand, the total difference a simple image of nature made in an NHS isolation ward. From a view of a grey messy pinboard, dustbin and clock, the patient’s view was transformed into a vista of calm and beauty. Doctors and nurses commented on what a positive and refreshing difference it made, and were amazed that the print could be cleaned and was hospital grade. I suppose they were used to Ikea prints that harbour dust and the subject matter of New York taxis in a traffic jam is not that appropriate for inducing calmness and wellbeing! As founder of our company, I now have a personal bee in my bonnet to bring nature into every NHS in the country. If you would like to join us on this journey, let’s talk!
The thing is, while I am talking with heads of procurement for acute care wards, it is the administration staff and also other suppliers who are approaching us to bring biophilic enhancements into their offices too. Knowing the value and understanding the qualitative evidence-based research that has been done on biophilic design in workplaces and hospitals has been key in unlocking interest and sales. It’s not all pretty pictures and pricing.
I honestly don’t think it will be long before Jo Public will start sharing and shouting #biophilia from the rooftops, Instagramming like mad and over-taking #hygge and #lagom as the new must-have trendy term. The important thing though, is for us as professionals and pioneers of biophilic design to ensure that people are educated properly, that they understand what it is, what types of images make a difference, what lighting is best, what shapes and spaces make for happier homes and workplaces. Events such as these inspirational conferences run by Workplace Trends, bring us all together, one big voice and a strong movement to make people’s lives better. Our company is one piece in the biophilic jigsaw puzzle, which is why we work with designers, innovators, disruptors and other suppliers, together we can make a bigger positive impact.
I am learning all the time, and I am excited how future workplaces will look, heartened by media coverage of the benefits of biophilia, although they are churning out the same quotes from EO Wilson. Maybe there is a need for a “standard” in biophilic design? I’d be on the board like a shot!

Guest post by Vanessa Champion of Argenta Wellness
Photo copyright Vanessa Champion. 

Vanessa and Argenta Wellness will be at our supporting exhibition at Workplace Trends London on 17 October 2018. 


Sunday 13th May 2018 Live Blog – The Design & Management of Learning Environments

We’ll be live blogging our Learning Environments Conference on 17 May.
Bookmark this page, follow and tweet using #LearnEnvConf to take part!
(If you’re having trouble reading the blog below, please visit this alternative site.)

Monday 20th November 2017 Workplace Trends Conference Write Ups