It appears we may be on the verge of a radical transformation in the way office environments function and exist as boosting productivity does not entail refilling your coffee cup. This new thinking centres on the concept of nurturing wellbeing within the workforce partly through stimulating the mind and body in ways which leave employees feeling energised and productive.
What actually is ‘wellbeing’ then? Social Scientists Tom Rath and Jim Hartner describe it as “the combination of our love for what we do every day, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health, and the pride we take in what we have contributed to our communities.”
The concept of nurturing wellbeing may, at first, sound like it’s part of the teachings of Dalai Lama or some celestial being seeking to guide us towards the path to divinity, however, it’s fundamentally about maximising productivity and that appears to make perfect, logical sense.
In real terms, most of us spend the majority of our daily lives at work and in an office that is predominantly grey and spectacularly mundane. Since we spend so much time here it must impact on our overall health and happiness and, thus, is it not important to optimise this space, creating an environment that gets the best out of us?
Clearly, there are boundaries here; you don’t want to transform your office into an adult version of your local children’s nursery, complete with ball pit and communal toy box. However, numerous recent studies from around the world have pointed to roughly 70% of workers admitting that they feel disengaged when in the office and rarely achieve a full day of productivity. If these studies are to be believed then the vast majority of employees in office environments feel they are operating well below their potential productivity levels. Ultimately, wasted time is wasted profit.
What can be done? Well, because of the multifaceted nature of wellbeing, there are many elements that can help to get the best out of your workforce. Steve Braithwaite, Co-founder of Mind Body Vitality 365, speaking to Connection, suggests that by encouraging key areas you can easily help nurture wellbeing and boost employee performance.
One way to do this is through invigorating our senses and the “way we look at and feel about the environments we work in”. A change from the stereotypical, grey, office cubicle to more flexible and flowing seating and work surfaces can help to inspire healthier working environments.
As modern commercial seating designers, Connection, argue “it’s been proven that knowledge workers feel better and more satisfied in their daily working lives when they are given the flexibility to design their own ways of working during the day”. Furthermore, this is something we’re beginning to see at some of the biggest companies in the world. Take Google’s London offices for example with their fluid and colourful collaboration spaces, office spaces are beginning to become areas designed to energise their inhabitants not comatose them.
Another method of nurturing wellbeing, and something that we feel very strongly about, is nutrition. Stimulating the mind and body is not simply about your perceptions it also encapsulates your health. As we outlined in a previous blog, a nutrition led approach to food can have a large influence on creating and developing a healthy and productive mind. Ensuring your daily, work related routine incorporates eating the right food can have a significant impact on your performance levels whether you are working at home, in the office or on the go.
Finally, a lack of movement during the day is one of the biggest contributors to obesity and poor health in the workplace which is something that will only get worse in the future, as we become more sedentary. Now a day’s you only need a desk, laptop, a remote login and a mobile phone to get through your standard business day. Nurturing wellbeing here, means encouraging activity and movement in employees. This could be through as radical a method as introducing yoga classes during lunch hours or as minor as creating a longer walk to the printer or photocopier.
Ultimately, it seems unlikely that we will see any serious change overnight as it may appear to many as avant-garde. However, it also appears that ignoring some of the simpler steps to boosting wellbeing, and therefore productivity, is as senseless as a manufacturing company refusing to oil and maintain their machinery. Perhaps then, we shouldn’t consider this as some fashionable, bohemian teaching and instead, as the oil necessary to improving the efficiency of a vital machine.