Whether you’re looking to update your current office space or are in the market for your next company headquarters, there are a variety of factors to consider. Below, we’ve outlined four key office features that you can’t afford to ignore.
The best office spaces are designed to provide flexible functionality. Cubicles may have been all the rage in the 1960s, but modern businesses thrive on team collaboration and communication.
That’s not to say that employees should be left to wander a wide-open space. In 1993, a forward-thinking advertising agency decided to tear down cubicles and enact the first “virtual office” (an open-concept office without any partitions, personal spaces, or dedicated computers). Despite idealistic intentions, employees rejected the drastic change and the experiment was ultimately deemed a failure.
Today, the concept of a “virtual office” is a lot less radical. Shared workspaces like WeWork have found success developing this 90’s-era idea into a viable business model. With one major development — more built-in flexibility and a healthier balance between private and public spaces.
For many companies, the best office environments are ones that offer employees personal space (their own desk, computer, and place to keep personal items) and communal spaces where they can go to congregate, collaborate, and meet in small groups. As you evaluate different office layouts, think about how you’ll use the space and if the layout is conducive to different working styles and activities. An open-concept layout is great, but only if there are private meeting rooms and more intimate spaces dispersed throughout.
Finally, think about how you’d like your company to function and where different departments will “live” within the office. If your marketing and sales teams are having trouble communicating, it may not make sense to add extra physical barriers (such as walls and floors) between them.
2. Natural Light
There’s a reason why desks near windows are coveted office real estate. We’re biologically hardwired to prefer places with lots of natural light because we need it to stay healthy. In addition to being a vital source of Vitamin D (which our bodies need to function), sunlight also has a profound impact on our psychological wellbeing. Getting a healthy dose of sunlight has been shown to boost happiness, lower stress levels, and even reduce pain. Studies have also revealed that employees who don’t get enough sunlight at work experience more sleep, energy, and health problems.
Although offices with less natural light often have a lower price tag, don’t be blinded by potential savings. If your employees don’t get the light they need throughout the day, they won’t be as rested, healthy, or productive as they could be — all things that will influence your company’s bottom line. According to a Harvard Business Review study, employees value sunlight and outdoor views over every other office perk, including luxury offerings such as on-site fitness centers, cafeterias, and childcare.
That said, you don’t need to spring for a glass solarium in order to give your team what they need to thrive. Instead, look for a building that gets decent sun exposure and has enough windows dispersed throughout the space to provide pockets of natural light. Research also suggests that adding indoor plants to an office environment can help boost employee productivity and happiness, even if every desk doesn't have an outdoor view.
Most office wish lists don’t include “great building ventilation,” but there are compelling reasons why they should. In addition to heating and cooling a building, central HVAC systems also work to circulate indoor air and pull in fresh air from outdoors to get rid of indoor air pollution. When ventilation is nonexistent, poorly designed, or inadequately maintained, employee health, comfort, and productivity all suffer. Ventilation problems can also make it difficult to maintain an ideal office climate, which can impact workplace performance and increase utility bills.
If you’re renewing your lease or shopping for a new office space, it pays to ask the right questions. When was the ventilation system installed? Where are vents located? How regularly is the system maintained and cleaned? Can the windows be easily opened to let in fresh air? Was the building constructed with green materials? Doing a bit more up-front research will limit surprises and expenses down the road.
4. Air Quality
Indoor air tends to be more polluted than outdoor air — especially in shared spaces. Chemicals (VOCs) and fine dust (PM2.5) can enter into the air from toxic building materials, office furniture, rugs, cleaning products, paint, and other biological contaminants such as mold. In addition to a laundry list of potential indoor pollution sources, most offices are jam-packed with people — and more people means that more CO2 is being exhaled into the air.
If the building lacks adequate ventilation, the amount of chemicals, fine dust, and CO2 in the air can skyrocket well above healthy standards. Breathing high levels of VOCs and PM2.5 for 40-plus hours a week can increase employee's risk of developing infections and diseases, resulting in more absenteeism and lower overall satisfaction. On top of these risks, high CO2 levels can induce fatigue, impede concentration, and cloud decision-making — all things that directly impact productivity.
Creating an Optimal Office Environment
As you work to create a healthier, more productive environment for your employees, it helps to have a baseline of comparison and a means of measuring your success. More and more companies are seeking out green building certifications (such as Well and RESET) to help them identify areas for improvement and keep tabs on the health of their office.
Awair Omni monitors indoor temperature, humidity, chemicals (VOCs), fine dust (PM2.5), CO2, light, and noise levels. In doing so, it empowers companies with the insight they need to create healthier, more productive work environments and smarter office investments.
To learn how Awair Omni has helped AirBnb keep their employees safe and healthy at work, follow the link below.