One of the most significant challenges businesses have faced in the last six months is attracting and retaining talent, trying to find winning ways to get employees back into the office environment.
Since the epidemic, a large part of the workforce has been working at home and has become accustomed to it. What was once an exception is now the norm, and companies are expected to respond positively to this change, offering possible hybrid solutions.
However, Christian Mabe, managing director, Optima Products, explains that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Staffers are also increasingly concerned about how their employers are actively involved in concerted efforts to reduce global carbon footprint. This is rapidly becoming another important workforce requirement that employers need to consider outside the baseline provisions of a comfortable work environment.
This situation has led to the realization that, for many companies across the country, they can accept nothing in terms of hiring and they must respond directly to the growing need for employees.
So, as businesses seek to improve their offerings, stay relevant in an ESG-led landscape as well as achieve optimal value, my advice is to look at their office space, weaving sustainability into every possible part of the workplace.
Sustainable design value perception
It is a misconception that sustainable design is prohibitively expensive. In the past, business owners have favored a solution with a minimum advance price tag without considering a more sustainable option, which, although a more expensive advance, may be the most effective option in the long run. A good example is single-use plasterboard drywall versus round-framed aluminum framed glass partitions.
It is also wrong to think that sustainable design lacks visual appeal. We have come a long way in terms of aesthetics, and office fit-out specialists and their clients now realize the importance of creating functional spaces that provide sustainable style, sophistication and comfort.
For example, office refills are maximized by what is already there For example, instead of abandoning existing office furniture, one should consider how to give it a new lease of life.
If these items are still in good condition and functional, there is really no excuse to throw them away. Thus, it is essential to give them a second life when giving preference to natural materials over synthetics and plastics, especially when seeking to refine, refresh or re-upholster existing materials.
Emergence of the circular system
Furthermore, adopting a system-based approach can improve a sustainably specific commercial space. For example, HVAC and window systems have the potential to reduce utility bills by designing offices that incorporate smart automation components, capitalizing on fresh air and natural sunlight.
Following the now universally acclaimed mantra of ‘circular Rs’ also helps to approach the project with a complete life cycle approach. Basically, creating a sustainable space that will surpass the responsible occupant means one that is basically paying the full value of the selected material.
Equally, premium products and materials will have a longer shelf life, meaning they can be reused more than once before being considered for recycling. It maintains the desired level of style by reducing the frequency and cost of the refit, while achieving a strong, high-performance interior.
In addition to reducing environmental impact, there are countless other benefits to consider when designing a sustainable office space. Most important is employee well-being or, in other words, workforce stability.
The last two years have taught us a very important lesson: human beings are a limited and valuable resource that should never be exploited or wasted. A sustainable workforce goes beyond hiring people with the right skills, it’s about nurturing long-term growth and engagement.
Therefore, a well-thought-out office space adapts to the growing needs of its team and provides a good balance between the areas designated for different types of work, from collaboration to highly focused personal work.
The number of virtual meetings will not decrease soon, so it is essential to provide a private, confusion-free area for employees to call. Considering the direct impact of sound levels on comfort and mental health, it is worth investing in the right acoustics when designing. Using high-performance glass partitions can help maintain privacy, although still ensuring an open, light and airy environment.
Additionally, biophilic designs have been found to improve cognitive functioning as well as physical and mental health, ultimately benefiting employees’ well-being, creativity and productivity. Biophilia principles can be applied in many ways beyond leaves and natural finishes to create a cost-effective office environment. A great way to achieve this is to design an open-plan space that takes full advantage of natural light and temperature fluctuations.
Of course, some of these examples may seem trivial, but since the average worker spends most of their time in the office, it is important to create a space with sustainability and wellness in mind.
The time has come to rethink the spaces we work in, prioritizing solutions that are designed to evolve and evolve as we grow. Ultimately, sustainable design is much more than just reaching the net-zero goal, it’s about understanding what is really important to people who use space and align their values to create a harmonious environment.