The Workplace … Wacky or Wellbeing?

There was once a time when Canary Wharf’s shining tower blocks were the city’s flashiest workspaces, with soaring pinnacles and breath-taking views over the capital. But then the tech companies entered the scene and set the bar for creating office spaces that staff actually wanted to work in, and a new age of office spaces was born. Companies began having to compete with each other in order to attract the best talent.

Businesses most noted for their innovative and vibrant office spaces are mostly those of the tech giants; the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook. They create lands of fun where staff can live their lives (if they so wished). Gyms, Olympic sized swimming pools, climbing walls, basketball courts, running tracks, football pitches, massage rooms – you name it, they’ve got it. Tech companies have been doing this for a while, but the scale just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Apple is now the biggest office tenant at Battersea Power Station, Facebook has recently invested in 500 new London based staff and Google has unveiled plans for £1 billion headquarters in London. Amidst these work places will be attractions such as three floors worth of shops at Apple (including an auditorium and cinemas) and a 90m indoor running track at Google and at Facebook’s Tottenham Court Road offices staff enjoy free lunches, a big pick ’n’ mix station, and more toiletries than the average five-star hotel.

So why are the tech giants splurging so much money on extravagant (some might say wild and wacky) workspaces? Is there something to be said for workplaces like this or is it overkill? And how can smaller business even hope to compare?

Tech giants have a focus on recruiting the very best staff, who are highly trained and specialised. They have realised that they need to ‘stand out from the crowd’ when it comes to recruiting talent as workers are becoming more motivated by what an employer can offer them other than a pay cheque. As a result, they have had to explore different routes of attracting staff and wonderful office spaces which cater for every whim of their employees, are an achievable goal with pockets as deep as theirs. However, businesses in other sectors (especially smaller ones), on the whole, do not have to be as ‘all singing and dancing’ in order to attract talent. However, that’s not to say that the physical properties of a workplace are not very important to other sectors as well – it’s just that the scale doesn’t have to be as off the chart as with the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple.

The last 20 years has seen the speedy evolution of office spaces. The modern office has gone through a plethora of changes; the early 2000s saw the death of cubicle offices and the rise of open floor plans and the 2010s saw the rollout of ping pong tables and the like in offices everywhere. While office trends may come and go, the constant in all of this is that the office environment is directly linked to employee health and wellbeing.  

Whether you’re a CEO or a freelancer, the space in which you work, the look and feel of it, matters. Yet as a business manager it is so easy to neglect office space when you’re busy juggling meetings, deadlines and budgets – office design can be easy to overlook. Many studies have shown that the physical properties of an office space can have a very real (and sometimes serious) impact on the behaviour, happiness and productivity of workers. At Where Workplace Works, we have seen time and time again how satisfaction with the work environment has been directly linked to the overall job satisfaction of workers. Unmotivated employees and high rates of attrition are a serious threat to the bottom line of any business and the work environment can be a vehicle for preventing this – even small tweaks can make a big difference.

As a firm which specialises in creating people powered places, we are passionate about helping firms to find the right balance for their workplaces. When done right and with people in mind, workplace design positively influences health, wellbeing, satisfaction and performance of employees. Human centred design can have a real impact. A small first step can be offering employees areas to recharge and taking their comfort into consideration – a few comfy chairs, a coffee machine and a fruit bowl can go a long way towards making employees feel valued and comforted at work.

Whilst the majority of organisations, especially small businesses, do not have the funds to create extravagant workplaces with the perks that the tech giants provide, it is within reach for organisations to take steps towards what these companies offer. Something as simple as offering a free fruit bowl, including a few indoor plants in design and purchasing a few sit/stand desks can do wonders for productivity in the workplace. Ultimately, workers perform better when they feel like they are valued by their employer and these small changes go a long way to proving this to them.

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