Celebrating Spaces

Part 1

As the weather slowly gets cheerier outside, we think it’s a great time of year to make your workplace cheerier inside! Here at Office Needs, we strongly believe in the power of good office furniture and interiors to improve your working day. So welcome to Part One of the monthly theme for May – Celebrating Spaces!

Here at Office Needs, we’re always on the lookout for the latest tips on how to work better – and it’s amazing how many times the work environment is cited as a crucial factor in workplace happiness. Interior design has a huge impact on how we view and interact with our work space, even when we’re not particularly aware of it – even the least design-aware among us will usually have at least a slight opinion on the design or aesthetic of their work space. 

Here, we argue why certain features of your office’s interior design are so important to happiness at work, and provide some suggestions too! 

1. The Importance of Light

Something that we don’t always consciously think about is the availability of natural light in an indoor environment. As well as reducing the need for artificial lighting (and cost!), natural light also has an enormous physiological effect on the human body.

Sunlight is an essential component in the production of vitamin D, and contributes to healthy levels of serotonin in the body – which has a significant impact on regulating our mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, stems from a lack of natural light in winter months, and is estimated to affect nearly 1 billion people worldwide – often completely unknowingly. It can cause lethargy, sleeplessness, and often intense depression for months at a time during the colder and darker days of autumn and winter.

With such a large proportion of our waking hours tending to be spent at work, having access to sunlight in the workplace takes on a far greater importance than many of us realise – but most especially for the surprisingly large number of people with lower-than-average vitamin D levels, as the human body literally can’t produce it otherwise.

A pioneering 2014 study by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that workers operating without windows or natural light consistently performed worse than those with sufficient access to daylight – productivity, physical activity and mood all noticeably declined, and quality and duration of sleep was also significantly worsened compared to those seeing more daylight.

The study concludes that the “design of office environments should place more emphasis on sufficient daylight exposure of the workers in order to promote office workers’ health and well-being”.

The placement of windows is crucial to giving workers plenty of exposure to daylight, but unless your company is intending to custom-build a new premises with that in mind, it’s unfortunately something that you often don’t have much control over. Instead, managing the layout of rooms and furniture within the space takes on a whole new importance in order to maximise the amount of useable light and ensure that as many of the workforce have access to it as possible.

A good rule of thumb is that light from a window will have health benefits for around 1.5x as far into the room as the window is tall – so desk and table arrangements should ideally be based on keeping good access to that area of effect for as many workstations as possible. Rooms that are used most often should ideally be along the edges of the building, so as to have access to the majority of windows and the light that they offer, while inner-building spaces are best reserved for less regularly used functions, like copier rooms or storerooms.

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2. Furniture

Choosing the right furniture for you and your workplace is something that can radically change the dynamic of your office – and can be an enjoyable process for even the least creatively inclined. As well as helping to solve practical problems and frustrations in your work environment (like uncomfortable chairs!), outfitting or redecorating is a fantastic opportunity to really refine and reinforce the function and philosophy of your company. Maybe you’re streamlining the environment to improve the efficiency of your workflow, encouraging a more relaxed feel in a dedicated break space away from the bustle of the main work area, or even just setting a unified colour theme across a floor or building to better represent the company colours or ethos.

While such a dramatic redesign sounds like a rather lofty ambition for those of us without a large budget, even a smaller business with more modest spending power can still find plenty of ways to redesign and revamp an office by prioritising more pressing concerns, and making sensible, informed product choices.

Seating and desking are great examples of this – there are plenty of options for every budget, that will still fulfill specific practical and stylistic requirements. A cutting-edge steel framed, floating top, solid hardwood desk might be perfect for an office that welcomes lots of visiting clients or guests – but a similarly high-end desk wouldn’t necessarily be as important in a more practically-minded workspace, or for an office replacing a whole lot of desks in bulk.

The most important thing to get right is that the desks and chairs you choose are ergonomically suited to the person sitting at them – after all, your project is intended to make you and your colleagues work better! Once you’ve accurately decided what it is that you want and/or need out of the product (how many hours a day will the user sit on the chair, for example), then you’d be amazed how many products might fit your criteria while staying within your budget.

3. Ergonomic Considerations

Something we talk about a lot – for good reason! – is ergonomics in the workplace. Lighting has a huge impact on our mental and physical health, but posture and physical comfort is another major factor in our day to day wellbeing.

A common misconception is that getting a high-quality chair and desk setup which addresses all of the main posture and physiological concerns is a very expensive endeavour. While it’s true that it certainly can be, it’s important to stress that it doesn’t have to be!

Height adjustable (or sit-stand) desks are available at a huge spread of price points now that the technology has become more widely known and cost-effective, and height adjustable workstations (that fix onto an existing desk) present another, cheaper alternative to a full desk replacement.

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Slow-burn adoption of sit-stand workstations is a good way to keep costs down if replacing a whole office or floor’s worth of desks in one hit is too much of a strain on the budget, but also serves as a great way to introduce the concept to a workforce that’s otherwise very used to sitting.

Placing a single height adjustable table or desk in a meeting area, or on the end of a row of desks, can encourage staff to stand for short periods without being too much of a change to established routines, and using a more communal setting to pilot a standing approach also helps get more people on board more quickly.
Doubling down on the benefits of a well-lit space with an ergonomically considered workstation also confers the most concentrated benefits on the workers using them, giving the best possible chances at a positive reaction and a more meaningful adoption of healthier workplace practices going forward – boosting productivity and staff happiness more effectively.

Smaller ergonomic considerations can also be an incredibly cost-effective way to improve worker wellbeing without breaking the bank or impacting routines – something as simple as a padded mousemat with an integrated wrist support can do wonders for desk-bound employees who spend the majority of their time at a computer, without requiring any changes to that worker’s process or thinking.

That’s all from me this week – hope these tips help you to plan your workspace more effectively! Remember, you can always talk to us about upgrading your furniture or designing a new space – we’re happy to help.

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Join us next week for Part 2 of ‘Celebrating Spaces’!

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