How an office redesign can enhance workplace wellness and sustainability
In a post pandemic world, people may return to office spaces that don’t look very much like the ones they left in March 2020. As employees push for hybrid work models, savvy property managers, landlords, and company owners will consider an office retrofit or office renovation for the new hybrid workplace.
First, let’s consider what a hybrid work model may look like and then explore the features that should be part of an office renovation for hybrid work.
What Is Hybrid Work?
Nearly all (99%) remote workers want to continue to work from home at least some of the time, according to a recent survey from social media management company Buffer. Benefits of remote work, according to employees, include increased productivity, time and money savings, and a better work-life balance.
But remote work creates challenges for managers who want in-person employee engagement. Meanwhile, 45% of fully remote teams during the pandemic said they wanted to return to in-person meetings, according to a survey from Indeed.com.
Enter the hybrid workforce, where at least some of the employees spend some time in the office and some time working remotely.
A hybrid office can lead to cost-savings for the company, enhanced employee wellness, and even increased sustainability, reducing the company’s overall carbon footprint by minimizing employee commutes and reducing overall energy use.
If you’re considering an office renovation for hybrid work, it’s a good opportunity to think about ways you can make your office building and its operations more sustainable while also introducing workplace wellness programs driven by your new sustainable office design.
Fortunately, workplace wellness, sustainability and hybrid work often go hand in hand. Here are eight office renovations you can make to create an invigorating and eco-friendly environment that can help contribute to well-balanced, engaged, and healthy employees.
Create Coworking Space and Hot Desks
One of the key features of a hybrid office model is the fact that all your employees will rarely be in the building at the same time. This creates opportunities to introduce “hot desks,” where two or more employees can share a workspace on different days depending on their schedule.
Of course, you’ll want to ensure a cleaning crew sanitizes surfaces before the work area changes hands between employees. You may also want a digital reservation system to help employees keep track of their scheduled times in the workspace. And you’ll need good wire management systems so that employees can quickly connect and disconnect their office equipment since they are likely to have a laptop or netbook that can work wherever they work.
You’ll use less electricity by reducing the number of desks in use in your building, and you may even be able to repurpose some of your individual offices or cubicles into common areas for collaboration or physical activity.
Enable Social Distancing
The pandemic is winding down, with many regions of the country abandoning both masks and social distancing as an attempt to “return to normal.” But today’s workers remain more germ-conscious than ever before and employers concerned about workplace wellness should take heed.
Creating an office environment with space for social distancing can make workers feel more comfortable in every way – physically and psychologically. It can also help inhibit the spread of germs, reducing absenteeism and boosting productivity. If another outbreak occurs or COVID continues to spread at increasingly high rates, your office will be configured to continue with business as usual.
Work with an office designer to determine the best layout for your space for employee comfort and collaboration.
Develop the Conference Room of the Future
You might take some of the space you’ve freed up create a high-tech video conference room to keep your remote workers connected in your hybrid office. You’ll want to hire an audiovisual firm to work out the specifics of a video conferencing room that can make everyone on the near-side and far-side of your calls feel engaged and connected. Consider surround sound technology, 4K screens, and telepresence technology to enhance video conferences.
You may also want to introduce smaller, private spaces where individuals can hold one-on-one video calls without disrupting co-workers. Again, work with an AV design team to follow best practices for placement of the camera. Provide a solid, neutral backdrop for the call with features, such as a live plant or company signage, to create a setting where any employee will feel comfortable. Focus on front lighting – and natural light, if possible – to minimize shadows. Finally, add soundproofing for better acoustics and to minimize disruptions.
Introduce Public Spaces for Physical Activity
While today’s workers prefer to enjoy leisure activities outside the office, you should still consider making space for employees to get up and move their bodies during the day.
Ping-pong or billiards tables may no longer be a draw to today’s workers. But a courtyard garden where they can take a lunchtime stroll can contribute to emotional wellbeing and enhanced employee engagement.
You might also consider retrofitting a space with LED screens and floor mats, where workers can stream group fitness classes or practice yoga.
Look for Ways to Leverage Natural Lighting
A hybrid workspace is typically more environmentally friendly than a conventional office where 100% of the workers show up in person every day. But you can further reduce your carbon footprint and improve workplace wellness with specific measures, including using natural light and daylight harvest techniques to reduce the use of energy.
Natural light can also improve productivity amongst your workforce, since it matches their biorhythms, delivering the right spectrum of light at the right time of day.
If your office doesn’t allow for natural light, consider circadian LED lighting. These lights deliver blue-spectrum light during the day, and warmer tones in the morning and late afternoon. You’ll want to work with a professional lighting designer on this project. Understand that circadian lighting is still new technology and a combination of art and science to create the right programming for your workplace and your region.
Revamp HVAC Systems for Cleaner Air
Outdated HVAC systems represent tremendous opportunities for improvement in terms of office sustainability and workplace wellness. Whether you retrofit existing systems or install a new, AI-driven smart system, you’ll see a reduction in energy costs and an improvement in air quality.
The U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy recommends measures such as installing:
- Air economizers
- Heat and energy recovery ventilation
- Demand control ventilation
- Building automation systems
Rely on Bio-Based Design Materials
Allwork.space spotlights the use of bio-based design materials as one of the hottest office trends for 2022. Consider the materials you use in your retrofits from a carbon footprint standpoint before making any changes.
Some options in sustainable office design include natural or recycled materials such as:
- Recycled steel
- Reclaimed wood
- Recycled rubber
- Recycled plastic
Think Carefully Before Making Office Design Changes
Of course, the best way to keep your carbon footprint down and minimize waste during an office design and renovation process is to retain certain elements from the original design. Replacing old office shades with new motorized smart shades for daylight harvesting or replacing old fluorescent lights with LEDs are worthwhile changes.
But do you need to move a wall or replace your older office furniture? Can you help reduce waste from your office renovation and design project by re-using different elements of your furniture and reconfiguring it to fit the new space?
You may find you can do more with less – and, as a result, reduce your project budget – by carefully considering every change and determining if it’s really necessary.
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