PeopleManage

Five ways to design health into your work

3 May 2017

A thoughtfully crafted space can greatly improve employees’ wellbeing, writes Lendlease Head of Human Resources, Lisa White. 'Five ways to design health into your work' published in People Management discusses how businesses can start to lead culture change in their workplaces to focus on wellbeing. 

We spend a third of our lives at work, so it’s unsurprising that our workspace can have a huge impact on our health. Thankfully, many organisations are now realising the importance of creating a workplace that enriches the wellbeing of their staff.

While changing a business culture is never easy, there are a few simple steps companies and their leaders can take to help start the process. Through working with our clients across the globe and even within our own business, we’ve identified five key steps that can help get the wheels in motion.

1. Make ‘em move more

On average, office-based workers now spend three-quarters of their working day sitting down – despite the widely documented health effects of prolonged sedentary behaviour. While our computer-dependent lives may be to blame, businesses can increase day-to-day movement with small design cues such as placing communal facilities like printers a short walk away from desks, or opening up floor plates to allow people to visually connect rather than just sending another email.

Our recent white paper, Fit for purpose: Steps to tackling Britain’s sedentary workplace culture, highlighted that more than a quarter of employees never use the stairs at work. Stairs are an excellent, and easy, way for us to incorporate more movement – centrally located and inviting staircases are a big part of our workplace designs. Given that you can burn three times as many calories by taking the stairs compared to using a lift, I know which option I’d choose.

2. Take the time to refresh

Our research also found that more than a third of employees eat lunch at their desk four or more times a week – a truly outstanding figure, considering how significantly replenishment can influence our productivity and performance.

Short of prying people away from their desks, we’ve found that providing an inviting lunchroom or cafeteria space can have a major effect – not only at key meal times, but also throughout the day. Creating that type of ‘heart’ in a workplace not only provides health benefits, but boosts collaboration, too.

3. Shake up back-to-back meetings

Believe it or not, there is no rule that meetings have to be held in a room and sitting down, yet many of us find our days booked in room after room, hour after hour.

When you think about it, many meetings could be held standing or even walking – and doing so has been proven to improve creativity and decision-making. Our teams have plotted out walking meeting routes that last between 15 and 60 minutes, to help formalise the process and encourage staff to venture outside more often.

4. Actively encourage activity

Building end-of-trip facilities that promote active transport and lunchtime activity into the workspace – such as a towel service, ample showers and an abundance of lockers – encourages staff to stay active outside of working hours. But an employer’s duty should not stop there; the most pristine facilities can be left untouched if no one knows they are there. Businesses must make sure to signpost, promote and encourage staff to use these facilities, and listen to feedback on how things could be improved.

5. Help employees enjoy work and life

Because of our 24/7, always-on world, the lines between our work life and personal life are increasingly blurred. And with our constant time-poor lives often comes stress, which can negatively affect both our mental and physical wellbeing.

There are lots of internal initiatives organisations can adopt to support their employees mental health, but what we’ve found as developers is that we need to create workplaces that offer more than just office space. Think about the things that make it easier for employees to enjoy a more balanced working life, such as outdoor seating, green spaces, and proximity to shops and cafes.

Creating a healthy workplace isn’t easy – but leaders can take their first steps in the right direction by designing simple healthy cues into workspaces, and letting teams know that their wellbeing is valued.

Lisa White is head of human resources at Lendlease, an international property and infrastructure group.