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Multisensory design is the key to improving employee health and wellbeing

New research from the British Council for Offices (BCO) argues that a multisensory approach to workplace design can help improve workers’ wellbeing.

The paper, Designing and Managing Buildings for Health and Wellbeing, outlines how the five senses will play a vital role in how returning workers respond to the office. Embracing elements such as increased natural light, ventilation and colourful surroundings will create a more welcoming environment and help improve physical and mental performance.

The research comes as the UK government calls for communities and private sector organisations to ‘do their part’ in mitigating the most pressing impacts of Covid-19 on the nation’s mental health. Following a year of increased screen time and widespread ‘Zoom fatigue’, multisensory design can act as an antidote to help reinvigorate workers and reignite the imagination says the BCO.

When planning for a multisensory workspace, the paper recommends:

  • A thermally and aurally comfortable environment with plenty of fresh, clean air and satisfactory sound levels
  • Adequate exposure to natural light
  • Views of natural settings and environments
  • Aesthetically pleasing surroundings that provide visual interest (e.g. innovative uses of colour and artwork)
  • Increased use of indoor plants and more attention to biophilic design in general
  • Minimum pollution from external air and noise

Furthermore, the paper argues the importance of a company-wide commitment to improved wellness through an appointed health and wellbeing executive, consistent monitoring of workplace conditions, voluntary health and wellbeing focus groups, as well as collecting data on absences for a deeper understanding of employee wellbeing.

Derek Clements-Croome, Professor Emeritus at University of Reading and author of the report, said: “Good physical and mental health are central to our happiness and wellbeing. Amid all the other considerations this is often forgotten when designing  the workplace.

“After an incredibly difficult year in and out of lockdown and away from the office, it is extremely important that we create spaces that workers can flourish in. Small changes such as adding more plants to the office, increasing access to sunlight and adding artwork can really go a long way and boost workers’ productivity and wellbeing.”

Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the BCO, said: “Following over a year of almost continued remote working for most office-based businesses, many are questioning how they might lure workers back to the office. The answer is quite clear: workers need a space that invigorates their minds and cultivates creativity.

“When working from home, employees are required to invest personally in their own wellbeing, which can be a considerable burden. We can relieve workers of this responsibility by offering a space where they can make the most of their talents. A first-class office will do just that.”

The paper is free to both members and non-members and can be downloaded here.

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