Cyril Parsons is managing director of award-winning design and workplace consultancy, Office Principles and is a practised speaker on office fit out, design and the latest innovations and working practices to support improved employee performance and more productive workplaces. Here, he shares some tips to consider when trying to create a more agile working environment.
Much has been made of how important flexibility and wellbeing is when planning any changes to the workplace environment however both phrases can be used as a ‘catch all’ sometimes and so it’s important to establish what’s expected, by all members of a team, when those words are bandied about.
Listen to the staff
First rule of thumb is to consult with those people who will be using the space and find out what environment works best for them. How do they do their best work? Do they prefer quiet or are they more relaxed and happier in a noisier environment? What facilities would they ideally like to have? Find out everything right down to whether they’d be happier with complimentary fruit or a regular supply of chocolate biscuits. The main purpose is to engage with the team and make sure that everyone is given a voice and is heard.
Invest in wellbeing
There’s a very obvious link between good mental and physical health and happiness and increased productivity, which is the key reason why so much is being invested into improving wellbeing in the workplace.
Some practical ways in which wellbeing can be nurtured and supported include well-ventilated workspaces, with lots of natural light; a mix of spaces, including breakout areas; the use of certain colours to sooth and to stimulate; plants and living walls; and the most attractive, user-friendly kitchen and bathroom facilities.
On another level, wellbeing also incorporates those added extras that promote wellness overall: Standing desks, complimentary gym membership, healthy vending machines and water stations, along with storage areas for those employees who choose to cycle to walk, are just some potential initiatives to be considered in the mix.
It’s a shopping list which varies depending on the taste, age and cross-section of staff involved, serving to emphasise the point that it’s good to get the team’s input first before any plans are made official.
Offer flexible working
A flexible working environment is as much about being allowed to create and mould your own working hours and practices as it is about having a mix of spaces to work in. The working world has moved on and the rigid application of 9 to 5.30 as standard office hours is no longer the expectation for the majority of forward thinking companies unless there is a valid reason why this needs to be the case.
What’s more, flexibility is, in fact, the most valued aspect to any job as we’re all committed to achieving the best work / life balance in the main and technology has enabled a high degree of flexibility to be possible.
If you can embrace this style of working, allowing staff to work from home or on the go, as they choose, and not tying individuals to specific desks or spaces, you will find that this agile approach enables you to use your space more intelligently and, potentially, save money in both rent (taking into account reduced square footage) and facilities.
Promote a purposeful approach
A sense of purpose is critical to any employment longevity as it’s what drives the dynamic in the workplace and makes team members feel that they truly belong. Creating a better working environment depends a lot on positivity and generating a sense of commitment and self-belief from the workforce.
This is just as essential to the workplace as flexibility and wellbeing as negativity has a habit of spreading and impacts on, and influences, the rest of the team.
Know your employees, recognise what motivates them and make sure that they believe they’re making a difference. Promoting wellbeing and offering flexible working will, ultimately, only get you so far along the road with an employee. Having a purpose is the key driver. Without it, the rest doesn’t matter, in the long run.
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