We recently attended a free seminar hosted by Herman Miller and Office Principles, with interesting talks by Bertie van Wyk and Hannah Nardini. The theme was based around the idea of creating more productive and profitable workplaces by improving general staff happiness and wellbeing.
They had some brilliant ideas about how this can be achieved – and many of their ideas are easy and can be implemented straight away.
Here were our five favourite tips from the day.
1. Remind staff to adjust their desks to reduce risk of injury
When did you last adjust your workspace to make it more comfortable?
British people now sit on average of 9 hours a day during their commute to and from the office and while at the desks, and sitting at a desk that’s not been correctly adjusted for you can cause life-long, irreversible damage to your body.
Not sure how your desk should be set up? CNet has an excellent five step approach to making your desk more ergonomic, developed with ergonomics experts.
2. Encourage more movement in the office
Alternating between standing and sitting down is the best way to reduce the chances of permanent back injury – staff should aim to be on their feet for four hours a day. While a treadmill desk may not be the best solution, you can make sure that your staff stand up and get away from their desk in simple ways.
Herman Miller encourage their staff to get up and have a coffee together hourly – rather than staff asking “would you like a drink?” and going to get it for them, staff ask each other “shall we grab a drink?” and go to the kitchen together to make a drink. This gets them away from their desks, helps to get more oxygen into their bodies, gives some social interaction, and gives them a mental break from the task they are working on.
Another excellent suggestion was to have standing meetings, which on average are 34% shorter but give the same results, or encourage walking meetings, a favourite with Steve Jobs. Or you could remove printers from individual desks and have just one large machine for everyone to use, so everyone has to get up and walk around when they want to print something – a little less convenient, but much healthier for you!
3. Encourage office friendships
Shannon Banks has spoken at our conferences about the importance of connections in the workplace, and it has been proven that a best friend at work improves staff loyalty, reduces sick days and staff turnover, and encourages mentoring.
Everyone knows that the first day at a new organisation is always the most daunting. So why not encourage staff friendships from the moment a new member of the team accepts a position – invite your staff to contact a new member of the team and start to form those important friendships straight away!
Hannah suggested that providing a free breakfast at the office each month is another great way to encourage interaction. While not everyone may be able to join in, it can help to encourage discussions and friendships.
4. Caves and campfires
Some people prefer to hide in caves to work, a quiet environment while they can concentrate without distractions, while some people prefer to work around campfires, busy areas with lots of people to talk to and lots of interaction. Give your staff freedom to choose their environment, and trust them to choose the space that’s right for them.
It can take 23 minutes to concentrate again after an interruption – so even a quick question can be incredibly disruptive! If you have spare meeting rooms, encourage the use of these for quiet working to anyone who needs them. Allow your staff to work from home and collaborate remotely, so they can choose the right environment.
If you are designing a new office space, make sure you allow for varied working environments. Happy’s office has a main open plan office, with small offices, booth seats along the corridors, and the cafe for staff to work in, so everyone can get away from the mixed space if they need to.
Take a look at Aelogica’s custom design for their agile office space, based around the cave and campfire model, for some inspiration.
5. Allow staff to disconnect
Sitting at a desk all day is not necessarily more productive – but socially, people believe that if someone works long hours, they must be busy. Before anything can change, you need to address this culture and make it acceptable for staff to go home from the office on time, and allow them to foster a good work/life balance.
Avoid contacting staff in the evenings and weekends or while on annual leave – wait to speak to them the next day, or speak to another member of their team instead.
Car manufacturers Volkswagen and Daimler both control staff email usage, to prevent staff temptation to ‘check in’ during their spare time. Volkswagen switch off their company email 30 minutes after the office closes and until 30 minutes before the office opens, to prevent staff from checking their emails at home. Daimler, meanwhile, allow staff to set their inbox to automatically delete incoming email while they are on annual leave, to prevent staff from working during their break.
Hannah Nardini ended the session by saying: “happy staff are more productive, loyal and creative, and they are brand ambassadors. Can you afford to ignore your staff’s wellbeing?” Very powerful words.
Which of these will you implement in your office – and what other ideas could you put in place to improve your staff health and well being?