The elusive work-life balance. It's been reported that a typical employee spends between 38-60 hours at the office. Now, with the exponential rise of connectivity, employees feel pressured to check in for work using their smartphone, tablet, or laptop on the go: during their lunch break, commute, and at night after dinner or before bed.
This is counterproductive to an employee's mental health and workload stamina because it forces engagement instead of fostering it.
Even though we can't all have offices that literally disappear after 6 p.m. to discourage employees from working late, we can embrace work spaces that mimic some of the key comforts of home. These design twists can help your team feel relaxed and engaged on their own, while understanding they can take breaks to increase focus and productivity in projects.
Here are three ways to shift your modern office design to invite more balance:
Recreate the family hearth with your employee lounge or cafeteria.
Even a company with hundreds of employees can create a cozier feel in their lounge or cafeteria. By using acoustic furniture pieces or lounge couches and club chairs, the staff will appreciate the little details that help them relax. Acoustic furniture helps deaden echoes in louder open spaces such as cafeterias and lounges, while creating coffee break getaways and private conversation areas.
A hearth isn't complete without a group table and benches. Create the "farmstead table" atmosphere and foster connection and friendship with a long community table. If your employee benefits include a Free Lunch Friday or Breakfast Meetings, a long table may make sense for your layout. If dealing with less square footage, a cluster of round tables with comfortable lounge chairs will do the trick.
Recreate the quiet nook atmosphere of a home attic or hidden room.
Employees can't necessarily nap on the job, but your office should have a couple of quiet spaces where people can relax and escape noise, interruptions, and stress. Encouraging fifteen-minute breaks in a sensory-deprivation or meditation area will help team members rest their eyes, reconnect with their physical presence, and recharge their brain.
Quiet nooks can take the shape of bean bag chairs in a closet-size room, acoustic furniture pods and seating, sliding glass doors to "cubbies," private enclaves off the employee lounge, or even a quiet floor.
With quick breaks to recharge and feel secure and cozy without noise and the rush of an open office, employees can return to their desks ready to go.
Recreate the backyard for a sense of play and movement.
For city-dwelling employees who move from bed to car/train to office and back again, the time for play and movement disappears. Physical fitness and stretching is good for the body and improves ergonomics and productivity as well as oxygen flow for increased focus and creativity.
Consider setting up a private room-read: no glass windows so people can observe-where employees can take a break to stretch, do jumping jacks or push-ups to release stress, or to even have an impromptu dance party. Movement is healthy and fun when you get a group together to dance and laugh it off.
In today's start-up culture, it's common to see companies equip their work space with a luxury putting course, a slide next to the stairs, swing sets (see Leadpages' office swings, above), a basketball hoop, ping pong table, croquet set, or even the hipster favorite: cornhole.
If you can't fit a free movement space into your office layout, consider bringing employees up to the roof for optional Tai Chi classes, or host a flag football game in a nearby park on Thursday afternoons.
By recreating a sense of work-life balance in the office, employees will know you acknowledge and understand that there is no place like home, but there are productive work spaces that feel just as comfortable.