HOW WILL POST-PANDEMIC OFFICES
ALLOW US TO THRIVE?
In an era of heightened concern around the health and well-being of employees, organisations and developers are starting to face what might be the post-pandemic role of the return to office “normal”.
Health and wellness have become critical issues for businesses. Having a healthy and happy workforce is more productive and helps improve the bottom line. According to Gallup, highly engaged, satisfied employees are 21% more productive and report 37% fewer sick days. So how can a company ensure its workforce is as healthy and happy as possible?
The pandemic has driven many new strategies for return-to-work and wellness. Whilst addressing the pandemic is important, the focus should also be placed on addressing social equity and climate action, to create sustainable and healthy buildings, as well as environments that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
One way landlords and employers are acting on these priorities is by investing in ESG goals. ESG, short for Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance, is a way an organisation can focus and measure the sustainability and societal impact of their investments. ESG is often used to evaluate an investment’s overall health. It is measured by the balance between social, environmental, and governance factors.
Wellness is the inroad to thriving at work.
Health and wellness are becoming more significant components of ESG criteria. They are influencing real estate decisions and shaping ESG strategies.
The design brief for a project alters when a landlord or business owner takes an ESG approach. The discussion switches from a one-time expense approach to overall impact, with wellness playing a larger role: Does the project response lower employee absenteeism and healthcare costs? Will the project reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality? Are the operational goals enhanced and operational expenses reduced? Are our workspaces effective, healthy, safe, well-maintained, and ready for what comes next? Will this building or office be a place to grow and thrive? What is our impact on the greater community and the environment?
Thriving is defined by researchers as a psychological condition in which people feel both alive and learning. You can progress rather than feel stalled when you thrive. People that are able to thrive are healthier, more resilient, and just better at concentrating on their work.
Helping people thrive at work is both achievable and fundamental to the notions of ESG and wellness, and can be directly influenced by the lighting design.
Emotional wellness is dependent on clever zoning of the workplace so that noisy activities do not overrun peaceful ones.
Emotional wellness necessitates the availability of outlets and spaces to help with stress reduction, personal demands, and the development and maintenance of meaningful relationships. Having a say in where, how, and when you work enhances your emotional well-being. Clever use of lighting can help to distinguish different uses for each space within a working environment, where soft and warmer lighting may make people feel more comfortable, and higher levels of cooler lighting may help people focus.
Because acoustics, lighting, and thermal comfort differ from person to person, physical wellbeing relies on user control.
Physical wellbeing emphasises the need to stay active throughout the day. These areas raise awareness of and provide access to proper hydration, nutrition, universal access to daylight and fresh air, and a variety of relaxing locations. They include features such as activity-based planning, activated staircases, walking routes, and walking meetings that help team members avoid sedentary behaviours. They recognise the diversity of their users as well as the fact that everyone seeks wellness in their own unique way.
The big question when it comes to control, is how do we give everyone the ability to control their environment when these changes will in turn affect their colleague’s environment? When we use the word ‘control’, most people think immediately of control systems and with user inputs, but at Light Culture we believe the answer is flexible working environments where employees can physically move between spaces to find the right environment for their current needs. This doesn’t require the need for sophisticated lighting control systems and allows the whole environment to change – not just the lighting.
Flexible office environments are quickly becoming the new norm, and in turn, are flexible working hours. Whilst working hours outside of the typical ‘nine to five’ offer convenience around employees’ personal schedules, they could affect our biological functions in ways we’re not yet aware of. Light Culture supports the belief that artificial lighting should adapt in response to changing natural light outside. In particular, artificial lighting used during times after nightfall and before sunrise should differ spectrally from those used during daylight hours in line with the users’ circadian rhythms.
Design teams and clients need to future-cast and think about what’s next to help environmental wellbeing by producing spaces and structures that are sustainable, resilient, and change-ready.
Environmental wellbeing is achieved by establishing pleasant, well-maintained, and resilient surroundings. High air quality, dynamic lighting, thermal comfort, reduced energy and water use, and best-in-class physical and cognitive ergonomics will all be features of these places. Environmental wellness considers the building’s products and materials to prevent red-listed chemicals and materials, as well as the embodied energy of the entire manufacturing production process.
Introducing intelligent daylighting control systems can dramatically assist in reducing energy consumption. Occupancy sensors are incorporated to switch off lights in areas and rooms when not in use, thereby reducing the power consumption of the lighting system.
Sensor-based systems are one type of strategy that can be used to offset increases in artificial lighting that may be needed if occupants will be working earlier and later due to staggered work times. Changes in occupant densities may require an evaluation of lighting distribution strategies, which can be managed through the Building Automation System.
As companies try to lower the density of work areas due to COVID-19, many are considering staggered work schedules for employees. People arriving early and staying late will likely mean the lights will be on for longer periods of time. Incorporating an advanced system of lighting controls and sensors is one way that building owners can manage potential additional energy loads.
In terms of the purpose dimension, the physical environment must reflect and project the organisation’s goal by explaining why you are here, allowing this collective why and spirit to drive the work.
The purpose dimension recognises that team members strive for fair experiences and a sense of purpose in their job. Corporate mission statements are frequently used to give this vision to team members. These mission statements must be experienced rather than read in order for this dimension to be adopted universally. Members of the team gain from knowing how their personal values align with those of the company.
We are entering an era of increased awareness around the influence of the built environment on the planet, and the organisational and social systems it represents as we go ahead from this last year of remote work and worries about health security, climate change, and social equality.
Your values are reflected in what you build and how you invest your resources. Workplaces are no longer just locations where people go to get a desk. The workplace is where team members define their careers. It’s a learning platform. It is here where we can invent and create. It gives you a feeling of belonging. It also allows folks who live in and use these spaces to feel linked to a greater purpose – it’s a place to thrive.