The flexible workspace is fast becoming the norm in many companies, revered for reducing real estate costs, mobilising employees and embracing the latest in digital technology, companies are flocking to flex. From a business point of view, it makes perfect sense, the flex office promotes the use of a single space that can be used for a whole host of functions and purposes.
The flex office is appealing as it can be shaped in line with the needs of the business. Warehouse and production space can sit alongside administrative offices to ensure smooth communication and easier running of daily operations. The flex office certainly has its advantages, but it might not be the best environment for your workforce, in fact it could even be causing your employees more harm than good.
The Symptoms of Flex Office Working
Flex office working is deemed as a great way to strengthen the bond between employees, and encourage collaboration. However, it can also cause discomfort and distraction, diminishing the well-being of employees and decreasing productivity.
A study by Christina Bodin Danielsson,Holendro Singh Chungkham,Cornelia Wulff &Hugo Westerlund, four Stockholm University students, proved interesting and highlighted the fact that workplace layout has a huge impact on sick leave. The study concluded that there appeared to be a high risk of short-term sick-leave in certain types of open-plan office. It was also reported that male employees working in flex-offices are more prone to taking short-term sick leave and taking more days off for sickness.
Employees working in flex offices often complain of a lack of privacy, can find the amount of background noise distracting, and may also find the space too stuffy, or overly warm. Sharing an area may save money, but workers may be missing out on being able to settle into their own personal space.
Getting the Best from Your Employees
Want to create the best environment for your employees? Keen to increase productivity and the well-being of the workforce? Let’s explore what makes the optimum working environment:
Good lighting is key. Employees need a source of light to work effectively, and not all flex-offices offer much in the way of natural light. Artficial lighting is therefore required, but it needs to be fit for purpose - not blindingly harsh, but not too soft either.
Flex offices can be busy, and a noisy work environment can have a detrimental impact on the employee. It can be very diverting when you are trying to complete an important project whilst trying to filter out the noise of colleagues talking to one another, and colleagues chatting on the phone. Add to this workplace acoustics, such as noisy equipment, large trucks passing by to get to the warehouse etc – and you get a whole host of disturbancies that can prove detrimental to productivity.
Shared workspaces can be cosy when full, lots of bodies equals lots of body heat, and you get the added issue of everyone having an opinion as to what the “ideal” temperature should be. Some prefer a cooler work environment, whilst others prefer to be nice and warm – however, a space that’s overly hot can create a weary workforce.
Fresh air needs to circulate to keep employees healthy and maintain their well-being. A stuffy work area is hardly conducive to an industrious workforce, we need fresh air to keep our brains alert and help us to remain focused and on task.
How Can We Maintain a Positive Work Environment?
In order to get the best from your employees you need to create the best work environment possible. Flexi offices can promote great working relationships and encourage your team to bond, but we’ve also learnt that a noisy, hot, stuffy, badly lit space can have a damaging effect on employees.
The answer is to re-shape and re-arrange the work space to create the optimum environment and to monitor the working area. We can then keep an eye on the factors influencing the performance of employees. We’re talking keeping an eye on the temperature, lighting, noise, air quality and humidity. But how can you do that every day without causing disruption?
That’s where the connected cube comes in. Innovative company, GreenMe has developed a clever cube that can discreetly collect data, providing you with the opportunity to monitor the environment. A member of the IoT (internet of things) the cube uses sensors to analyse the environment and provides information relating to whether your workforce are operating in the optimum working environment. You can use this info to tweak environmental factors such as lighting and heating, thus making your workforce feel as comfortable as possible. A content workforce is much more likely to put in maximum effort, work hard, achieve results and thrive.
Christina Bodin Danielsson, Holendro Singh Chungkham, Cornelia Wulff, Hugo Westerlund. Office design's impact on sick leave rates. Ergonomics, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/00140139.2013.871064