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Adrian Wakeling: The office of the future: ambient, warm and flexible?

Thursday 24 September 2015

Adrian Wakeling, Senior Policy Analyst at Acas, comments on how the design of the workplace environment can directly affect our health, wellbeing and productivity at work.

Adrian Wakeling

Adrian is a Senior Policy Analyst at Acas and is part of a team responsible for informing the future strategic direction of Acas and influencing the wider debate on the value of employment relations.

Adrian Wakeling Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

Last year the World Green Building Council published a report on the impact well designed offices can have on our health, wellbeing and productivity. The report focuses on how planners and policy makers can engineer positive states of mind and health by thinking more about things like space, lighting, air quality, views, acoustics and even the pictures you hang on the wall.

Of course, not everyone can start with a blank sheet of paper and design the model home or workplace from scratch. It takes forethought, time, innovative thinking and, critically, a good deal of investment. But with CBI News reporting that UK growth is enjoying a "summer bloom", with balance of output volumes at +31% in August, is it time to think again about some of the core workplace issues that can directly affect our health and productivity at work?

Striving for building/human balance is to be commended, particularly as the growing evidence shows that environmental factors can have such a huge bearing on how we perform. But getting the balance right between work and home is arguably even more important.

A piece of research covered in HR Magazine reveals that one in five women planning to have children have hidden the fact from their employers and over a quarter felt 'baby shame' - feeling embarrassed at having to leave work on time, for example, or juggle childcare arrangements at short notice. Many of the women surveyed said they were considering changing their career path because they wanted to work more flexibly and be nearer home. The Back2businesship initiative is calling on employers to do more to help women to shape their careers in ways that suit them.

Writing in Acas 'pdf icon Workplace trends of 2015 [5Mb]' report at the start of the year, Acas' Head of Equality, Steve Williams, commented on the negative connotations that are still often associated with flexible working and said that: "This form of unconscious bias in managers must be addressed if flexible working is to be the springboard for better work-life balance."

Interestingly, in his article, Steve also highlighted the panic that many managers experience when faced with a request to work flexibly. Many simply opt to say 'yes' because they feel it's the right thing to do, or is expected, without fully weighing up the impact on the business.

If you want to find out how to build the perfect workplace - by focussing on key workplace relations as well as soft furnishings - take a look at the Acas Model Workplace.

Well designed jobs is the first of Acas' seven levers of productivity. What are the other six?

Read other blogs in our productivity series

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