Take a look around your office. Is it simply where you have to work or is it a space you actually enjoy being in?
Far too many offices are uncomfortable, unhealthy places that do nothing to enhance our productivity or creativity. This is one of the reasons why the number of freelancers, or members of the “gig economy” is growing around the world. In Europe, according to a report by The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 16.1% of the workforce is freelance.
Not working in an office, choosing the hours we work - even if we end up working longer - represents freedom and empowerment. But, unless something dramatic happens to the nature of work, organizations will always need offices or workplaces.
In 2017, multinational tech company IBM reversed a trend it had pioneered and began calling people back to the office.
Today, many IBM employees work in “agile offices” where clumps of desks are clustered in large, open spaces. Michelle Peluso, IBM’s chief marketing officer, believes that working in this way enhances “speed, agility, creativity and true learning experiences within your team”.
Creating workspaces that are more conducive to productivity, creativity and knowledge-sharing is not just being seen as a remedy for organizations that face challenges.
As companies shift production to countries with lower hourly rates, and technology digitizes work at a ferocious pace, fewer people are being hired. But they are being employed for the qualities they possess that machines can’t replicate. Exceptionally creative, empathetic and open-minded, they’re highly sought after, and they know it. Increasingly, organizations are having to work harder to attract these so-called “radical workers”, who are likely to work in offices or some form of workspace.
One of the ways to appeal to “radical workers” is to offer a working environment that is outstandingly appealing and enables them to thrive. This is, of course, the logic behind everything we see in Silicon Valley - from free cafes bursting with healthy, organic brain food to Chief Happiness Officers.
And it’s not just the most in demand employees who need to be treated well. According to the World Green Building Council, employees account for 90% of most companies’ costs. But, although it makes sense to invest in the wellbeing of your biggest asset, just 9% goes into workspaces.
If you don’t have the deep pockets of a Google or IBM, chill. There are plenty of ways you can transform your office into a healthy, productive, creative and happy working ecosystem.
You may well have heard the phrase “Sitting is the new smoking”. Sensationalist, sure, but we do spend far too much time slumped in our chairs staring at our computers.
Encourage employees to walk over to each other’s desks rather than send an email. Invite them to get up and walk around for five to ten minutes every hour. Hold walking meetings whenever you can.
We have got it into our heads that a caffeine or sugar rush concentrates the mind. Simply not true. Buzzing on coffee or donuts makes people less productive. Replace them with teas and herbal infusions, cucumber or lemon water, fruit and nuts. Now!
Some of us are wide awake and productive first thing in the morning, rubbing our hands with joy at the start of another day. Others of us come alive in the afternoon and have no problem working until midnight.
This is down to our own personal natural rhythm. There is not much we can do about it. If it’s doable for your business, offer flexi time.Also, think about the lighting in your office. Use natural light wherever possible. Try changing from a yellowy light to one which is bluer.
Research suggests that plants could have the power to help prevent and remedy everything from asthma to heart disease and physiological stress. They can also actively enhance concentration and self-discipline. A study involving 3,600 workers in eight countries showed that employees who worked in an environment with natural elements had a 13% higher level of well-being and were 8% more productive.
The funny thing is that employees can feel the power of nature even from fake plants, posters or wall murals. Make sure that every workspace in your office has a view of a real or fake plant, or an image of greenery. Use tranquility-inducing images of trees and forests.
Countless studies show that mindfulness works. The reason is that it is all about calming the mind by getting rid of anxiety. But you don’t want to encourage people to be so spaced out that they find it impossible to focus on meeting that deadline.
The simplest way to be mindful is to close your eyes and concentrate on your breath. Count every time you breathe in and out. Aim for four breaths a minute or lower. Regularize your in and out breaths so that they’re the same length. Breath into your lower diaphragm, letting it relax, your middle diaphragm and then your chest.
Just a couple of minutes of focusing on your breathing will make you calmer.
Introducing any one of these five into your office ecosystem will make a difference without costing a fortune. And, as more and more organizations have discovered, it will have a positive impact on your bottom line. Can you afford not to make your office better?
BBJ contributor David Holzer is the co-author of “The Healthy Office Revolution” with scientific researcher Elizabeth Nelson. A blend of compelling story, scientific research, blueprint for the future and manifesto, the book is receiving glowing reviews.
Rohit Bhargava, trend curator, storyteller, marketing expert and the author of the bestselling “Non-Obvious” books says: “At its heart, this is a story about our sometimes-broken relationship with work and how practicing mindfulness might be the ultimate solution to find balance.”
Buy your copy at Amazon or download a free sample at thehealthyofficerevolution.com.