Álvaro Villar
General Manager
WeWork
/
Expert Contributor

How Office Design and Flexibility Can Improve Well-Being

By Alvaro Villar | Fri, 07/23/2021 - 12:52

The global pandemic will forever be remembered as a period of chaos, plagued with social unrest and unimaginable challenges. However, alongside the tests of this time also came unexpected opportunities, which in the long run may turn into new realities that bring out the best of us.

For me, one of these opportunities has been the chance to come together with my team at work and find new ways to remain connected, reassess our priorities and focus on what matters most. In simple words, we focused on our well-being and tried our best to create a culture of empathy and wellness for everybody.

As we think beyond the pandemic, it will be critical for organizations to continue to focus on employee wellness. If this crisis taught us anything, it’s that these are topics that we cannot afford to ignore; going back to the old ways of working — long hours, long commutes and little time for ourselves — will mean we have missed the opportunity to make our culture stronger and our teams healthier, happier and more productive. 

Wellness in the workplace refers to any program or policy that a company offers to promote a healthy lifestyle among employees. There are many different elements that fall into the “wellness in the workplace” category; we have healthy food options and on-site fitness classes, stress management, financial wellness and mindfulness, to name a few. But there is an additional element that every company should be thinking about: office design, flexibility and how these can improve our overall well-being.

Workplace design and hybrid working models are two of the top workplace wellness trends to watch out for this year. As a true believer and enthusiast of flexible spaces, I see tremendous benefits of incorporating these concepts as important pillars of our wellness strategy.

Flexible, Inspiring Spaces

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we are a product of our environment. We are the company we keep, the information we consume, and the places where we spend most of our time, among them our workspace.

The workplace has been redefined as a hub for collaboration and productivity — and workspace design needs to      evolve to support this change. Well-designed workspaces will strike a balance between focus and collaboration, improving the employee experience and well-being.

The employee experience goes beyond the time spent working; we should feel inspired from the moment we walk through the door. With attention given to the small details, a simple journey such as getting a coffee becomes an entirely different experience. Besides, the aesthetic and the energy of the spaces really matter for our creativity levels, ability to dream big and push outside our comfort zones. This is what wellness at the office is all about.

The pandemic has presented business leaders with a unique opportunity to think about office space in a new way. I am sure that companies that succeed at understanding the importance of workplace design as part of their wellness journey will have a clear advantage in the near future.

The Future of Work is Flexible

What many companies are converging on is a mixture of remote working and traditional office working, known as the hybrid workplace. A hybrid workplace exists when a business allows their employees to work remotely, from the office, or splitting their time between the two.

The relevant concept here is “choice.” The hybrid office gives workers the complete freedom to choose where and when they do their best work. When employees are trusted like this, they are happier and happy employees perform at their best.

While each company has its own reasons for transitioning to this new way of working, there’s one thing we can all agree on: the hybrid workplace prioritizes the employee experience and general well-being. An important part of this experience comes from listening to our people and acting with empathy. Now more than ever our people crave connection, social closeness and meaningful conversations face to face. It’s our responsibility to provide a safe environment for these connections to occur. At the end of the day, these relationships build better collaboration, communication and trust within the company.

Ultimately, we need to strip back preconceived ideas around wellness in the workplace and welcome a much more holistic approach where our environment and our freedom of choice play a pivotal role.

Photo by:   Alvaro Villar