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Higher employee expectations have implications for workplace design

Words:
Stephen Cousins

Over half of workers now want their offices to provide a wider range of amenities and 69% believe their office has a direct impact on their mental health

MoreySmith refurbished co-working space, Linley House, originally the home to Manchester's first power station.
MoreySmith refurbished co-working space, Linley House, originally the home to Manchester's first power station. Credit: Billy Bolton

Workers are increasingly concerned about the impact of workplaces on their wellbeing, social connection and career development, the latest research has revealed.

The study by architect MoreySmith combined a nationwide survey of 2,000 people, undertaken by Yonder Consulting in October 2023, with insights from the studio’s clients and current projects.

It found that 25% of workers would consider leaving their job due to a poorly designed workplace, a figure that rose to almost 40% in London, while 69% of workers said they believe their workplace has a direct impact on their mental health.

Turning to the features that attract people to workplaces, the study found that 58% of people would be more likely to work in the office five days a week if there were free benefits, and half (50%) said the amenities available in a workplace would influence their decision on whether to work for a company.

MoreySmith said these findings indicate that people now ‘expect far more facilities than their home environment can provide’ to justify their commute, with financial incentives considered invaluable at a time of economic uncertainty and people ‘seriously weighing up the cost impact of the commute and the activities associated with being in the office.’

Meanwhile, 42% of workers said they would be more likely to work in the office five days a week if there were enrichment opportunities. The report notes that organisations should tailor amenities and perks to employees’ specific needs and enrichment activities should encompass health, fitness, nutrition, creativity and social opportunity.

Sony Music's UK headquarters in London was designed by MoreySmith to promote health and well-being and prioritise sustainable decision making.
Sony Music's UK headquarters in London was designed by MoreySmith to promote health and well-being and prioritise sustainable decision making. Credit: Billy Bolton

Also considered in the report were changing attitudes to home-based working; 41% of people said they fear missing out on learning and development opportunities when working remotely. Furthermore, 53% said they believe there is a greater opportunity for promotion or career progression when they are in the office.

Unpicking the ‘diverging and at times conflicting’ worker preferences and expectations, MoreySmith said that innovative design solutions are needed to both address individual needs and ‘nurture an atmosphere of recognition, belonging, connection, wellbeing, and intellectual stimulation; providing the opportunity to flourish.’

The study went on to assert that a holistic workspace should be a place where people are valued, and which ‘effortlessly merges’ the best elements of a home office, a boutique hotel and an independent coffee shop.

Linda Morey-Burrows, founder and principal designer of MoreySmith, said: ‘Having a variety of working environments, as well as flexibility for the uses and functions of space, helps promote collaboration, creativity, and overall production levels. Providing areas for focussed working is just as important as providing a social coffee bar.’

MoreySmith designed the new co-working scheme for the iconic ‘Generator Building’ at Bristol's new Finzels Reach development.
MoreySmith designed the new co-working scheme for the iconic ‘Generator Building’ at Bristol's new Finzels Reach development. Credit: Fiona Smallshaw

The highlighted concerns over mental and physical health make it essential for architects to provide spaces for workers to think, breathe and create, added Morey-Burrows: ‘Natural daylight, proximity to biophilia, including natural materials, texture, art and colour, acoustic performance and nuanced spaces are fundamental elements that need careful consideration. We need to contemplate product and material lifecycles before these become implemented, and design for longevity.’

Charged with creating awe-inspiring spaces that meet client specifications, architects can also try to ensure their own work environments nurture wellbeing, collaboration and inspiration.

According to Morey-Burrows, ‘every element of the employee experience’ should be mapped out in the studio’s design, starting at arrival and including the reception or bike store, to working areas and social spaces. ‘We should incorporate natural light, colour, texture, plants and art into properly considered ergonomic spaces, creating stimulating environments to inspire architects’ work, and a hub for socialising with colleagues, as well as impressing clients,’ she concluded.

 

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