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For many offices across Australia, the time is nearly approaching where we can get back to working on-site after what feels like an eternity of being homebound by the global pandemic. As there were adjustments with setting up a working from home environment, similarly there will be a period of transition for the return to the office. There is certainly an opportunity to consider what teams and individuals might need and benefit from as they venture back into the office after such a long hiatus.

There’s also the reality that many businesses have relocated to different premises, having secured better commercial lease agreements and may be setting up their office layouts from scratch.

Workplace design can offer huge benefits to the health and wellbeing of employees and now more than ever it is time to embrace these possibilities. We’ve rounded up a few aspects to consider and discuss with clients when it comes to the design of their workspaces post lockdown.

At a glance: 

Mental health in the workplace

Pre-pandemic, it was revealed that one in six working-age Australians were experiencing a mental health condition (source). It would be a safe bet to guess that this figure has increased after a prolonged period of lockdown.

Now more than ever, business owners and senior management need to know the ways in which they can support people’s health and wellbeing, regardless of the size of the organisation. 

From the perspective of workplace design, there are solid options you can suggest that your clients consider that can positively impact their employees’ on-site experience. 

Flexible workstations

There is research to suggest that prolonged sitting can have a negative impact on mental health, with the research linking sedentary behaviour with increasing risks of depression and anxiety. Prolonged periods of sitting down are also scientifically proven to have negative impacts on heart health. By sitting for eight hours a day one’s risk of contracting heart disease, cancer and diabetes rises by 40%. (source)

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Encouraging staff to be more physically active benefits the individual, but also the business with increased productivity and improved work performance also being sighted as top benefits of integrating stand up desks. For those who aren’t too keen on the manual adjustments required to get the height adjustable desk to the desired setting, there are electric standing desk options to make the transition a speedy one and some models even ‘save’ preset heights and adjustments for your convenience.

Walking meetings

Great for one to one meetings, or those with only a handful of participants, you could take a walk together and get the blood pumping, while also covering the necessary meeting points. Walking meetings are known to boost creativity and enhance collaboration and connection. This could be a particularly helpful approach if you are needing to brainstorm ideas. Those who are working from home can also participate in a walking meeting virtually.

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Pet friendly office

Another sure fire way to reduce stress levels is by having a pet-friendly workplace. If not all the time, you could arrange to have one day a quarter where staff are welcome to bring their pets in. Or perhaps participate in the annual ‘Take Your Dog to Work Day’

Having pets at work can encourage conversation, lighten the mood and contribute to increased productivity. There are considerations to be made before committing to the idea, but all achievable with clear guidelines in place. 

Social connection post lock down

While working from home is highly likely to continue to be an option in most office based businesses, it is important that workplaces are conducive to social connection. 

So how can office design encourage this?

Time to hot desk

If this isn’t an approach that has already been adapted within your clients workspace, it can take some getting used to, but what better time than now to introduce it? 

As you’re probably aware, hot desking means there isn’t a fixed location for each staff member to work from day to day, but the opportunity to select an available spot when they walk in the door. 

Hot desking enables people to work side by side who previously may not have crossed paths in an organisation. Team members from different departments get to know one another and there’s the possibility that they will learn more about the organisation from a new perspective. It can also break down barriers when senior management are sitting with junior staff, not huddled away in a corner office with the door closed. 

The key to hot desking working smoothly is having adequate storage for employees’ items at the end of the day – devices, coffee mug, stationary and the like – along with adaptable custom office furniture such as height adjustable desks and stand up meeting tables. Having cleaning items close to hand to wipe down surfaces is also paramount.

Greg from accounts might be very attached to ‘his desk’, but once teams see they can adapt a workstation to their needs fairly quickly, new habits will be formed and the benefits realised.

Break out areas

As important as the workstations in an office are the areas where staff can go for impromptu meetings, a casual chat or to catch up over a cuppa or lunch. 

And we aren’t just suggesting a water cooler for people to huddle around. 

By making these areas inviting with greenery, quality lighting and flexible, comfortable office furniture that can be moved as needed, people will be more inclined to want to connect in the space. 

Having fresh fruit and healthy snacks on hand near tea and coffee making facilities is also a sure fire way to promote social gathering.

Flexible collaboration

The lockdown encouraged many teams and individuals to collaborate differently. Encourage businesses to continue embracing new collaboration methods with these ideas.

Flexible team meetings

With staff back in the office, face to face team meetings will be back on the agenda. Help teams collaborate without stress by having furniture that is easy to move, such as foldable tables on wheels, to reconfigure the space needed quickly and without people putting their backs out! Stand up meeting tables are also handy in these scenarios, so there aren’t chairs needing to be factored in.

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If there are team members joining the meeting from interstate offices, or working from home, this can also be accommodated by setting up your workspaces around a central computer or wall mounted monitor through the use of collaborative cloud based tools

Linking with local businesses

What better way to benefit staff and support local businesses than teaming up? By arranging a staff discount to local eateries and health and fitness classes you will be connecting people to new suppliers that can benefit their finances and health, while giving local businesses a boost post lockdown. 

Why not get fruit and snack baskets from local suppliers to put into communal breakout areas, or even fresh flower arrangements and plants?

The wrap up 

It’s clear that there are a myriad of options for supporting clients with their return to the office. Part of this process may include the introduction of flexible workstations and generally wanting to increase productivity and wellbeing in the workplace.

Elevar provides high quality, user friendly workstations and ergonomic accessories Australia wide and are proud to be raising the standard in the Australian commercial office furniture market.Get in touch with the team today to discover how you can support your clients in creating flexible, intelligent workspaces to benefit their teams post lockdown.