As part of our ‘wellness’ theme in September, Allwork.Space spoke with Jo Upward, Managing Director at experiential design company Platform Group, about the many factors that contribute to client and employee wellbeing.
Established in 1992, Platform Group is based in Brighton, UK, and advises some of the world’s best-known brands including Vodafone, Accenture, Rolls Royce, BT, Tag Heuer and Sky. The company counts strategic workplace design as one of its key offerings, along with the design and build of innovative customer experience centres. In addition to Platform’s exploits, Jo has a strong customer experience background and is currently Vice President of the Institute of Customer Service.
With that in mind, we put a number of questions to Jo to better understand Platform’s vision for greater employee wellbeing, and how flexible workspace operators — and their clients — can promote a healthier environment from the ground up.
Allwork: Can you walk us through the current ‘wellness’ trends in the workplace, and how you see these evolving?
Jo: Over the past few years, we at Platform Group have seen an ever-increasing focus on wellness at work by our clients. This spans a range of areas from fitness and diet, to stress management and mental wellbeing, to our key area of interest, workspace design.
Trends in workspace design are, in the short term, still largely focused around collaboration and flexible working. How do you move away from one desk per person and create spaces that bring people and teams together to do more creative, collective and collaborative work? Linked to collaborative working, we are helping organisations to change their workspaces to support agile or project based working, focusing on how to accommodate teams in projects rather than functional groupings.
We are also seeing a trend towards enabling more control for individuals in their workspace. This includes providing spaces that have different functional needs – for instance, for quiet working, for formal and informal meetings, for one to ones, for telephone conversations, and so on.
Longer term we are seeing the rise in smart buildings and technology to support a new way of working. A great example of this is the Deloitte Edge building in Amsterdam, which demonstrates how greener, smarter buildings with in-built technology can deliver a more engaging workplace.
Allwork: Is there a certain type of company who wants to create a healthier workplace, like large corporates or certain industries, or is it all types?
Jo: No, we are seeing a focus on wellness across all sectors and company sizes. This is partly in response to the need to retain and recruit staff who, as more Millennials come into the workplace, are seeking a more holistic relationship with the organisations they work for.
Allwork: How would flexible workspace operators benefit from creating environments with client wellbeing in mind?
Jo: We believe it is essential to consider wellbeing as part of the design deliverables. Our clients are seeking long term gain in the form of uplifts in productivity and engagement with their staff from investing in their workspace. If we can design and deliver working environments that have staff wellbeing at their heart, then we will deliver benefits for all stakeholders.
Allwork: Aside from workplace design, what other elements can workspace operators implement to improve wellbeing?
Jo: Consideration can be given to offering healthy options for food and drink at work, as well as on-site gyms and exercise facilities.
Many employers are now recognising the value of providing social spaces at work to enable their staff to make connections with their co-workers, make meaningful relationships at work and to have a place for some downtime away from their desks.
We see employers encouraging wellbeing through the use of incentives – encouraging the use of wearables to monitor how mobile teams are during the working day and rewarding those who make 10,000 steps or more.
We also see a rise in the more values-based, spiritual side of wellbeing support. Providing employees with help to develop mindfulness, assistance in managing stress and developing better sleep habits are some of the initiatives we have seen.
Certainly stand up desks and offering the ability to adjust desk height to suit the user’s requirements is a growing trend. Treadmill desks, less so – perhaps they have been too much the target of parody.
Finally, it’s also important not to ignore the basics – ensuring workstations have enough natural light and have effective temperature control is essential.
Jo is Allwork.Space's Senior Editor for the UK and Europe. Jo has worked within business centre and coworking circles since 2009, researching and contributing written features for numerous industry publications. She reports on the latest market news and delves into local issues with one main objective: to champion the flexible workspace industry and its members.