According to IBM, hybrid workspaces allow employees to work from the comfort of their homes or in the workplace, giving them the freedom to choose how they split their time. In the pandemic & post-pandemic era, this notion of workplace freedom has become more appealing to employees worldwide. But we may ponder as to how an external space might benefit us if we are more comfortable in our home spaces.
The upside of turning hybrid
- Flexibility & productivity
Hybrid workspaces have given employees the ability to choose what works for them in terms of productive surroundings. This allows them to focus on what matters the most to them - in their own way - whilst continuing to be assets to the organisations they work for. The “9 to 5” style of working is dead & thankfully, it is no longer seen to be a link to productivity in employees.
The post-pandemic era has most definitely made all of us more aware of the perks of personal & environmental hygiene. In a world which has now shifted in a way where social distancing is a norm, coworking spaces provide safer spaces to conduct your business. The best coworking spaces are making them hybrid-ready by equipping themselves with the latest COVID health measures.
- Lower expenditure
Organizations have now realised that offering employees the option to work in a hybrid model is a very cost-effective option, leading to better savings & higher profits without compromising on productivity & efficiency. Allowing them to work in a hybrid style by giving them allowances to work from coworking spaces gives the employees a place out of their homes to work whilst being provided with excellent services to enhance their quality of work.
Negative Effects of WFH on Mental Health
With the emphasis on mental health & wellness increasing every day, both the new-age & current workforce are striving to find jobs which ensure, or at the very least propagate psychological wellness. Having a good work-life balance is imperative to this, but there is more that can be done from the point of view of businesses & organizations which seek to employ & retain healthy individuals as part of their teams. It is a well-understood fact that workspaces with multiple cubicles & fluorescent lighting are no longer acknowledged as adequate workplaces, but are rather counterproductive to work both quantitatively & qualitatively. With the surge & resurgence of COVID-19, employees are now used to working from home & were actually found to prefer working from home as opposed to returning to the office post “normalcy”.
In 2020, Oracle conducted a study in over 11 countries about the psychological effects of the pandemic on psychological health. Out of the sample, 78% had had a negative experience regarding their mental health. Some of the psychological problems faced by countless employees are:
- Stress & pressure
According to many mental health professionals, these commonly faced problems were because of the difficulty in segregating work & personal life, which led to an unhealthy work-life balance & even ultimately, burnout. Employees have problems sleeping & being happy, which has taken a toll on not just them but their personal & professional relationships too.
Just cowork, not WFH
Coworking spaces are good alternatives to WFH, as they primarily allow the workforce to leave their homes, which automatically separates their work life from their personal life. They can go to a place that follows COVID regulations, be surrounded by like-minded people who are colleagues & from different organisations, & still be productive whilst not being “at work in the office”.
Although these hybrid spaces offer a good respite from the perils of WFH, they can get a bit boring or monotonous if they only provide what they are meant to—a shared space for individuals from various work communities to work together collaboratively or independently. With the importance of psychological wellness flooding Instagram, Twitter & other social media platforms, coworking spaces worldwide are attempting to integrate ways to improve their users’ experience so that they enjoy working in the hybrid space & keep coming back thus increasing foot-fall as well as being content whilst working. So, how can these new-age spaces cater to the entity that is mental health?
How to work on your mental health by working on your surroundings
- Encourage biophilia
Biophilia refers to the love of living things or life. Coworking spaces should slowly transition into a more biophilic space where they try to integrate plants & other living things like dogs & animals to create a more entertaining & healthy environment to work at. Experiencing natural life indoors is a sight for sore eyes, creates new points of focus & has even been found to alleviate stress & mental fatigue. Global research has also found that plants help in improving creativity at work. Readers, can you affirmatively say that having a dog around you to pet & hug is not going to bring a smile to your face & make you feel even a little better? No. Say it louder for the people in the back! Feng shui is in, & will definitely have a positive impact on the workforce in coworking spaces.
- Ergonomic & versatile seating
Do you find your back hurting after sitting in a chair at a desk for hours at a stretch? I’m sure there are thousands of other people going through what you’re going through & yes, there is an easy solution to this. Workspaces can begin investing in ergonomic chairs & sofas to ensure comfort & efficiency whilst working. I mean, who does not like a comfortable chair whilst you stare at a screen for hours? Providing seating options like giant exercise balls to improve posture, reclining chairs, beanbags & even high tables to stand & work at are proving to be more efficient & healthier options as opposed to rigid chairs. This does not mean that workspaces need to do away with a desk & chair option, but rather only provide a few different seating options & areas so individuals can easily move around, see what works for them & what does not, & ultimately be as productive as they can be - with better posture & minimal strain on their backs of course!
- Invest in efficient lighting
Two words. Natural. Lighting. It has been known for years that the sun & its warmth provides us with not only vitamin D but improves our wellbeing, makes us happier & healthier. Workspaces offering a designated space to work outdoors & embrace the wind, the warmth & the sounds of nature are becoming extremely popular. Tight on real estate? That works as well because with a little vision, workspaces can redesign themselves to have open or even large windows to let sunlight & fresh air in. Also, eliminate harsh light everywhere. Get rid of the fluorescent white tube lights & opt for softer, yellow light in the form of table lights on desks, ceiling & wall fixtures & floor lamps next to communal seating like sofas. Lighting your workspaces like this boosts the mood, productivity & energy levels of your customers & workers, all while making the space look much bigger than it actually is, & a lot more inviting, which is always a perk.
- Intertwine art & colour
Colour is a game changer when it comes to enhancing mental wellness, & rightfully so, as we find them being used in advertisements & art to attract & make consumers feel a certain way. Hybrid spaces should consider integrating colours like blues (soothing, lowers blood pressure & anxiety), greens (calming, refreshing, stress-relieving), pinks (soothing, energy-balancing), & white (refreshing, clarifying) on a few walls, through coloured furniture & even through paintings depicting soothing & overall positive scenes.
- Offer healthy food & beverage options
Philosopher Ludwig Fuerbach once said that “we are what we eat'', a statement that holds true even today. Eating a balanced diet is one of the many ways to improve our physical & mental states. Coworking spaces offering customers options of not only healthy & delicious food, but fresh food is bound to pique the interests of many. Providing bowls of seasonal fruit, salads, fresh juices & other popular snacks (check Instagram for the latest trends!!) are more than enough to provide an immediate mood & energy booster to those in need whilst they work. An added benefit is attracting hordes of health-conscious individuals to use your space as well.
- Provide a variety of workspaces
Different personalities have different preferences. Read that again. Workspaces are not meant to be a one-size-fits-all & in order to be able to cater to the vast dynamic that is their clientele, they need to provide different types of workspaces for individuals. Consider a space for communal work - allowing for collaboration, loud conversations (proper room acoustics are a must) & a lot of movement. Also consider a separate space for the more introverted individuals, or those who require silence to work. Based on the kinds of people you expect, develop your floor plan in a way in which everybody gets something which works for them & wants them to come back.
- Constant temperature regulation
Would you work in a place that made you sweat till your shirt was see-through? Or a space which mandated a sweatshirt even though you were wearing your cute OOTD? Pretty sure the answer is a loud NO. Colder temperatures tend to make one sleepy & distracted, whilst a warmer temperature leads to laziness & a massive dip in energy levels. Studies have found the optimal temperature for maximum productivity & wellbeing to approximately be between 21°C & 22°C, whilst a study conducted by Cornell found that 25°C was the optimal temperature to work in. Regardless, reading the room is important to gauge everybody’s level of comfort, so ensure that someone is always able to change the workspace’s temperature if the need presents itself.
- Encourage extra curriculars
Extra curricular activities in the form of a regular yoga session, dance lessons or even meditation can be the difference between a good coworking space & a great coworking space. These kinds of activities heavily strengthen feelings of positivity & zen, & are a good break from strenuous work. Being able to have these lessons in the coworking space you work at is convenient as it eliminates travel time during work hours & you get a quick workout & endorphin rush between meetings. It also boosts integration, which reduces feelings of loneliness & isolation. What could be healthier?
Positive Vibes, Positive Lives
Working in a space which improves your overall state as an individual has never been more important than in the last one & a half years. People from varying generations are beginning to acknowledge psychological health & wellness now more than ever. Organisations are recognising this as well, & are opening up to the idea of providing safe spaces & healthy workspaces for their employees to work at as long as it does not compromise on productivity. Hybrid workspaces have already begun their evolution into this new requirement of mental health improvement standards & are most definitely a way to work, work out & stay healthy. A happy mind is a happy life, after all, & our surroundings have a huge role to play in our wellbeing.