Creating the optimal work environment — wherever you are

Ergonomics and increased ventilation promote thought clarity and creativity

With many businesses adopting flexible and remote working practices during this period of uncertainty, how can we maintain work performance while taking care of our families, communities and organisations?

There’s never been a more critical time to address our mental, physical, spiritual and financial health. Can we harness the opportunity embedded in widespread global disruption to establish a new workplace paradigm founded in wellness and community?

How do we empower people to adapt their environments to suit their ever-evolving needs, behaviours, responsibilities, tasks, and priorities? We take our learnings from workspace design to explore the key provisions for success in the remote workplace.

Ensuring employees have the technological capabilities to work from wherever they need to be, can help remove the primary barriers to working efficiently. Enabling ample digital connectivity helps to boost mood through engagement with others while enhancing collaboration and productivity. Additionally, by increasing transparency, providing IT-support contacts and making relevant programs available, people gain confidence knowing they have the digital tools and supportive infrastructure to get their jobs done well.

Explore new methods for teamwork to keep working processes fluid. This may include replicating a side-by-side collaborative work environment augmented by video conferencing or messaging platforms that support visual content. It might also incorporate new, out-of-the-box, ways of working that inter-mix short bursts of enhanced, strategic, interactive discussion, with increased freedom for independent, heads-down, task completion. Brainstorming together and creating a series of diverse events with teams can be a fun way to augment connectivity and stimulate progress.

Dining-living reversal celebrates remote working. Natural materials, green wall and reflected lighting further enhance joy and well-being

“Up-skilling” people on interest topics as well as on how to work in a different environment and manage team relationships can help to empower creative spirits and community identity. Sharing with employees the most effective ways to work remotely and guiding on how to manage expectations – of themselves as well as of colleagues and leadership – can strengthen self-reliance and enhance a connected team culture.

This is an amazing time to grow leadership at all levels. Well-timed opportunities to brainstorm, share and celebrate work can make an immeasurable difference. Allocating time in meetings to recognise successes at all scales. Asking each team member to lead and share with respect to professional and life accomplishments can build trust, confidence, connectivity, and support in the development of close connections that will serve now and into the future.

Helping team members define time and space boundaries to maintain their own mental wellbeing is a gift for all toward effective, healthy, high-performance habits.

The ultimate ROI – dedicating time now to help people grow capabilities, confidence, and understand their own resilience within the holistic support of their organisations. This is the predictive outcome of present and future success and efficiency for both individuals and their businesses.

Create a dynamic environment wherever you work

Empowering people to discover aspects that create comfort and enhance mood and performance in their own homes can have a distinct impact on health, wellbeing and productivity. This may include ergonomic furniture, lighting, plants, acoustics, access to daylight, water and nourishment. DIY solutions such as; stacking books for variable laptop height-adjustment, borrowing office chairs, selecting areas with absorptive surroundings and proximity to windows can provide valuable versatility, enhancing comfort, performance, and mood.

To support mental diversity, it’s important to identify a variety of settings for different types of work. Empowering people to create a minimum of three high-performance work environments – no matter the size of their space – has proven to support a range of benefits. These include; boosting motivation through freedom of choice, creating mood-enhancing playfulness, stimulating the brain through micro-movements and providing headspace for new ways of thinking. The spaces we select must be versatile and vibrant, just like our offices.

Cultivating a motivated mindset is vital to employee happiness and performance. This can be encouraged through regular communication with teams and team leaders, and by receiving recognition and positive feedback.  Facilitating continuous learning is key – teams benefit when individuals are self-motivated and empowered to champion their own success.

By creating time for individuals to clarify priorities and bring to life inner passions, home working can enable greater autonomy and more opportunity for focused, “deep work”.

Work with nature: focus and creativity

Exercising regularly, eating healthily and sleeping more can help to boost health, wellness, and productivity. Creating time for family dinners and preparing meals can enable nutritional reflection and support education on nourishment. Positioning fruit and vegetable snacks in 360-degree-visible locations can help support healthy eating habits.

Dedicating part of your day to practicing breathing and movement through activities such as yoga, running or rebounding, can help oxygenate the brain and keep the lymphatic system moving.  Even just a few minutes gently bouncing on the rebounder, doing a series of squats and/or taking a few deep, held and slowly-released breaths can serve to stimulate the immune system and creative problem-solving simultaneously.

Anxiety stimulates adrenals and limits our body’s immune-building functions, which can make us more susceptible to both physical and mental challenges. Practicing mindfulness, limiting news, and panic accelerators, and setting good habits for sleep can help alleviate this. Giving employees the freedom to manage their own time and deadlines can reduce perceptions of success being determined solely by accessibility.

Connection to others enhances mental wellness and supports resilience by providing community, a sharing/learning platform or sounding board. By bringing in new forms of connectivity to the daily routine – calling loved ones, empowering team members, up-skilling, undertaking acts of kindness – we can enable mental growth, positivity, and sense of purpose.

The current COVID-19 response is pushing the boundaries of the workplace as we know it and accelerating its evolution.  As architects, we see the challenges this propelled change poses as unique opportunities to innovate and redefine best practices towards a sustainable, healthy future.

Incorporate essential core body and mind-enhancing micro-movements

Director, M Moser

Dr Christine Bruckner, FAIA is an Architect and Director at M Moser Associates, leading Sustainability and Wellness in Hong Kong, serving globally.