Zen Dens – Using Workspaces to Transform Mental Wellbeing
A profitable business stems from happy, healthy employees. Happy employees are more effective employees. It’s scientifically proven. Boosting employee happiness increases productivity by as much as 20%. So, if you want a successful business, you need to look after your people. And of course having a positive working environment will help you recruit and retain the best in the business too.
Since most of us spend approximately one-third of our time at work, creating a healthy, happy workspace needs to be a priority and, as we mark Mental Health Awareness Week, it’s important to consider how we can make going to work good for us. The good news is that we can now do more with workspaces than ever to create a comfortable, interactive and productive environment. And here are a few examples:
Creating a home (not so far) away from home
We’re talking comfort and convenience. Many of us have spent the majority (if not all) of our time over the past year working from home. And even before this, more and more businesses were adopting flexible working. So it's undeniable that the work / home boundaries have become blurred. The comfort factor traditionally associated with working from home is being embraced by companies that want to shake off formality and support a more relaxed, positive and stimulating environment. Workspaces now feature everything from break out spaces, where people can go to take some time out to a shared lounge, games area or roof terrace to help people feel ‘at home’ in work.
For some the office is coming closer to home too. Great news for people wanting to reduce the pressure of juggling a work / life balance. Co-working spaces and managed offices are expanding out of cities and into smaller towns and suburbs. This means employees can be based nearer their homes and cut out the commute or endless panic to make the daily school run. Our Wilderspool Park community is a prime example. Located just a stone’s throw from the popular village of Stockton Heath, Wilderspool is home to a vibrant mix of sectors and companies all benefitting from the characterful open-plan co-working spaces, innovative events programme and collaborative park community. It is also home to a revolving series of exciting pop-up amenities for customers to enjoy, such as independent coffee seller Second City Coffee.
Healthy body, healthy mind
Mental and physical health go hand in hand, so by helping employees get fit bodies, businesses can boost their mental wellbeing too. Bringing a feel-good factor to our customers is something Bruntwood is very passionate about, not just by providing the essentials like bike storage and shower facilities, but also offering things like yoga studios, fitness programs and gyms. At Trafford House, we offer virtual fitness classes from Les Mills and Altius Health Care programs, whilst our Riverside complex and Bloc buildings in Manchester city centre are home to boutique gym FORM. Exercise gives you a creativity boost, so a lunch hour spent in the yoga studio can ensure you return to your desk bursting with light bulb moments!
It’s not just physical activity which helps clear our mind, boost our creativity and aid wellbeing either. Mindfulness and meditation are becoming increasingly popular for workers. At MSP’s Bright Building we run a regular programme of wellbeing sessions including yoga and guided meditation.
And for the more tech-savvy amongst us, the use of wearable technology is also on the increase. Sensors can now monitor everything from our stress or boredom levels, to how good our posture is and even whether we’re spending too long glued our screens.
Engaging the senses
Multi-sensory design enhances mood and well-being too and will be key to workplaces of the future. Brightening up the office and connecting customers with nature by bringing the outside in can have a significant impact on reducing stress. It’s not just about incorporating natural materials, such as green walls, plants and artificial gardens either, but also creating outside green spaces where customers can work, collaborate and relax. A number of our flagship buildings such as Platform in Leeds have amazing rooftop terraces and the new urban neighbourhood we are creating in Manchester, Circle Square will be centred around a new city centre green space.
Stimulating the senses in work can also involve anything from mood-boosting colours, to the use of energising scents or even background music chosen by the employees themselves. Artwork has a role to play too and dedicated creative zones like our digital art installation at Neo, help to stimulate, inspire and relax customers in equal measure.
As we head into winter and the start of dark mornings and evenings, even something as little as ensuring staff have access to natural sunlight can have a major impact on wellbeing. Adding a touch of greenery to the office, making sure you arrange furniture for increased light exposure or using LED lighting to create a more natural feel can have a major impact on the office mood and help eliminate the winter blues.
A problem shared is a problem halved and workspaces help bring people together. Thankfully, modern offices are becoming more open, sociable, communal places, increasing the opportunity for employees to come together, connect and let off steam. The inclusion of co-working spaces, collaborative areas and shared amenities like coffee shops and gyms helps to tackle isolation – encouraging conversation and boosting interaction and screen-free social time. At MSP’s Bright Building, interiors experts Sheila Bird Group created an extraordinary and engaging space on the ground floor for up to 200 people to come together and share ideas and inspiration. It’s a lively, fun and engaging place to be.
Small steps can make a big difference in providing a healthy workspace and can ultimately have a strong impact on your employees' mental health. It not only shows you value their health and well-being, but increases their happiness levels, creativity and productively. A positive and caring work culture benefits everyone.