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Lilli Hender

Office life: the changing ways of working

Authors: Lilli Hender

28 June 2016

The modern office as we know it first came into effect in the early twentieth century and it has been evolving ever since. When it comes to design and working practices, office workers have witnessed more than a few changes in recent years and these changes have a strong link to wellbeing and productivity. 

Workplace wellbeing and productivity
RAND Europe and the University of Cambridge recently looked into the relationship between workplace wellbeing and productivity. They found the health and wellbeing of staff correlates to presenteeism (working when you’re unable to give your best) and absenteeism. Personal factors, the job role, and crucially here, the working environment, all affect the productivity levels of the individual and in turn, the business.

With the modern workplace constantly changing, following the latest developments in workspace thinking could have an impact on a business’s bottom line as well as the wellbeing of its staff. If these factors are kept in mind, great offices and working habits will only be on the rise. 

Here are some of the popular trends to date.

The open-plan office
Open-plan offices come under fire for a number of reasons: they are often charged with having a negative effect on productivity (as a result of noise and distractions); employee health (if one person has a cold, you all get the cold); and employer/employee relations. The lack of privacy can be difficult for introverted individuals and it can lend itself to a feeling of managerial mistrust.

However, open-plan layouts are not without their benefits. They can ease the sense of hierarchy sometimes felt in a workplace - provided managers do not have private offices. Through the lack of segregation, individuals can bond across teams and discussions can take place more openly, helping to cut down the time spent in meetings. 

Break-out spaces
To combat some of the issues associated with the open-plan office, break-out spaces have seen a rise in popularity. Often part of a ‘workplace zoning’ strategy, break-out spaces offer employees another area to utilise during their working hours for tasks that lend themselves to a more private, relaxed atmosphere. 

They can be a great for informal meetings, confidential phone calls, lunchtime retreats, or tasks that don’t require sitting behind a computer screen. It gives the office a more homely feel and allows staff to work and socialise in a more comfortable environment. 

Remote and flexible working
Measures to help employees maintain a healthy work/life balance are important in the workplace. Remote working is one good way to achieve this. Setting up camp in a cafe or at home allows you to get out of the office whilst also getting your work done. 

Flexible working can be another great way to improve employees’ work/life balance. If someone has a commitment during working hours (a doctor’s appointment for example), they would have the option to make up the time elsewhere rather than having to book it off. Businesses that introduce flexible working tend to recognise that, while work is a priority, it can’t always be number one. 

Shared office space
One of the biggest developments in the office space sector in the last ten years has been the rise in coworking. Whether it’s renting desks in a coworking hub or in another company’s office, businesses are making the most of sharing space.

It’s a cost-effective option for startups and freelancers who don’t want to commit to a long lease, don’t need a huge amount of space or equipment, and would like to be part of a working community. Some companies are even offering office space for skills they require instead of money!

If your company has spare desks that could be rented out, it’s a great way to earn additional income. You’ll also have the benefit of being able to swap skills and have the excitement of seeing fresh faces in the workplace.