This post that explores the role of Transparency and Community has in creating a workplace that supports mental health.
A few years ago, we did a study of workplace patterns of a major Australian legal firm and found that a small but significant percentage of lawyers had minimal or no contact with their colleagues in a typical work day. They could hide out in their offices all day and avoid human contact. No wonder research shows that lawyers have one of the highest rates of depression amongst office workers. 1.
One of the strategies to address this problem for this law firm was creating a more transparent workplace. i.e. being able to see and be seen in the workplace through architectural elements like:
- Minimising solid partitioning-even though there were offices they had lots of glass, so colleague could see colleague
- Breaking bread together-encouraging people not to eat at their desks (including dinner!) by providing a great place to eat. Interesting stat form our study-something like 39% of the lawyers ate dinner at their desk at least once a week.
- Atriums and connecting stairs-being able to see all parts of the business and visually connecting practice groups. This is a physical reminder that each lawyer is part of a larger community.
Cultures that have a strong sense of community have some of the longest living people in the world. How do we create a workplace community in the age of flexible and mobile working?We can do this virtually but how about physically? Community is all about communication and developing a common culture.
We can help enable community by creating opportunities for connections. Some examples are creating pathways that have ‘bump factor‘-places where people naturally bump into each other and can start conversations. I’ve already mentioned the importance of placemaking in Part 1. A hub centred around food and drink is another great way to help create communities. Some organisations facilitate special interest communities by creating spaces for music, gardening and even bee keeping.
With thoughtful planning we can incorporate these planning principles into a workplace design to create connections and foster communities and create a workplace that has a positive impact on mental health.
RUOK is a great initiative to address mental health in the workplace. But it does raise the question-what part does workplace design play in wellbeing and how can it be used to improve mental health? In this two-part post I’ll explore ways to create workplaces that address a really important issue where mental health has increasingly become a focus of wellness in the workplace.
Here are 3 ways:
This post explores the role of Placemaking
RUOK says that communication with people positively impacts their mental state. We all need a place to meet people and communicate. We can take lessons from some ancient societies to create great places that encourage people to meet and talk. In almost every Italian town at around sunset the central piazza and village comes alive for the passeggiata. It becomes a place to catch up with friends talk, eat, drink, to see and be seen. We are instinctively drawn to these types of spaces.
Typically, they have the following attributes:
- They are centrally located with all roads/paths leading to them. In a way you can’t avoid a great place. They are destinations
- They are defined spaces-they are not open ended
- They have food and drink offerings
- People know that they can catch up with friends without making an appointment. Accidental meetings happen here
- They are pedestrian only zones
- People conduct business in them
We really can incorporate these planning principles into a workplace design and create a great place to meet and talk. A central hub or heart space needs have these basic attributes to be successful. They are central to creating a community that supports its members and impacts positively on mental health.
We spend so much of our life at work it makes sense that workplace design should be one of the tools that an organisation uses to support employee’s mental health.
means that you can grow your business without growing your headcount. Here’s
four ways to make sure you right size your workplace:
- Measure how your existing space is being
- Develop a core and flexible space
- Plan for change
A common theme
that we’ve come across lately when planning new workplaces is “growing without growing”. This means
growing business profitability and revenue without growing staff numbers or
even reducing staff. This is happening across all business sectors in
intelligence, machine learning, and automation means that routine tasks are no
longer undertaken by people. Customers accept and embrace doing work that was
previously undertaken an organisation. Most of us now accept the reality that
to get almost anything done there is an on-line form or a virtual assistant to
deal with. Routine tasks have been offshored for a long time now and its only
going to increase.
workplace strategists and designers asked the question how much will staff
numbers grow and how do we plan for growth? Now the question is how do you plan
for a workplace that will be area static or even shrink? Combined with the
increase in flexible working arrangement, mobile working and economic
uncertainty the difference between what you have now and what you need in the
future can be significant.
How do you plan
for this uncertainty when you are about to renew your lease or relocate to new
premises? Here are three things to consider:
Measure how your existing space is being
study undertaken over a minimum of 2 weeks can show how people are using the
workplace vs employed in an enterprise. Combined with a workstyle survey the
data can provide a good indication of how many workspaces are required.
Core and Flexible space strategy
your minimum viable space requirement (core space) is and utilise co-working or
flexible space for the rest.
Plan for change
change can mean flexible lease terms where you structure your lease terms incrementally
take up, hand back or sublet space on a regular basis.
The real lesson is don’t just count the
number of staff and multiply it by an area per person. You will almost surely
get it wrong. A good Workplace Strategy that right sizes your space requirement
can save you from paying for space you don’t need.
For more information about how right-size
your workplace go to www.5projects.com.au or call me
You want to design your new workplace to attract the best talent to help grow your business, right? Forget about the Millennials what about the Digital Natives-GenZ!
Here are 4 reasons why this is a mistake:
demographics are changing
Tenure is decreasing
Digital Native is a Myth
- Workforce demographics are changing
By 2023 the retirement age in Australia
will be 67 years old. The 55-64 age group continues to increase as a proportion
of the workforce. From 2008 onwards, this category becomes bigger than the 15-19-year-old
Our workforce is aging, and we have 5
generations working together, something we have never had before. We have to
accommodate all generations if we are embracing diversity inclusiveness in our
Gen Z will probably change jobs before soon-the
average tenure in a job is now 3 years and 4 months-2. For the over 65’s its
10.3 years. The Gen Z that you are designing your workplace will probably be
gone by the time you have designed and delivered your new workplace
The most valuable workers have experience
and tenure-that’s why they earn more.
Everyone wants to feel part of a young
vibrant organisation, so there’s good reasons to design a workplace that
appeals to Gen Z but the most productive workers, the people that have experience,
that know the culture and really add value shouldn’t be ignored. Counter-intuitively
the more complex your job description the more you will benefit from activity-based
- The Digital Native is a Myth
And finally, the Digital Native your read
about in workplace blogs and opinion pieces doesn’t exist. The theory goes that
anyone born after 1984 has been immersed in digital technologies all there
lives and are completely different from previous generation. They have sophisticated
digital and technology skills and learning preferences that need the
traditional learning or working environment just doesn’t work for. Non-Gen Z’s
just assumed they know what they were doing and were using technology
creatively. Well it turns out they are not. They are more consumers of
technology rather than creators. For example, Income and educational level is a
much better indicator of web savviness than age. This https://www.gwern.net/docs/psychology/2017-kirschner.pdf
is a great paper about this topic and is well worth reading.
So, the message is
don’t chase the latest trend, learn from the evidence. Think about who your most valuable workers are
and plan a workplace that really supports their productivity.
For more information
about how evidence based design strategies creates great workplaces go to www.5projects.com.au or call me on 0404697318
- Leesman survey https://www.leesmanindex.com/abw-report/