Workplace Wellness: Where To Start

July 2019

  It’s high time businesses took wellbeing in the workplace seriously. Government studies show a correlation between wellbeing and an employee’s performance. Is your company doing enough?

  Given that the average person spends 90,000 hours of their life at work, looking after ourselves isn’t something we only need to do at home. Offices across the globe have the ability to make employees’ lives easier, healthier and happier. At Fora, we believe in substance over style. Although we like to think of our offices as stylish places, every element has been chosen for the positive impact they have on our members’ wellbeing. Here’s why we champion wellbeing at work and in life – and why you should too.  

Seeing the light for happiness

In a Future Workplace survey of over 1,600 employees, access to natural light and views of the outdoors come out on top for necessities of a workplace environment. So why are we so desperate to escape the halogens and LEDs for sunlight? In the morning, our bodies release serotonin – a chemical that helps us wake up. It’s also a mood balancer. At night, we release melatonin to make us feel sleepy. Not getting enough natural light can disrupt the part of the brain that controls these hormones. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) will feel this greatly, especially in winter when there are fewer hours of natural light. Getting plenty of natural light at work helps us to stay alert during the day and sleep soundly at night. Without it, people can experience anxiety, mood swings and depression, partly because they may struggle to sleep at night. It’s why we’ve designed our spaces to have plenty of natural light throughout the working day.  

The power of ergonomics

How often do your colleagues complain of a bad back or neck? Or even have to take time off work because of acute back pain? Their posture at work may to be blame. Spending long hours slowly sinking into our chairs isn’t good for us. The NHS recommends changing your posture to alleviate muscle tension. If you hunch over your desk or poke your chin out, it’s a sign you’re not sitting correctly.

When you’re at a desk, your knees should be slightly lower than your hips, your lower back should be well-supported and your arms and wrists should be straight and level with the floor. All Fora workspaces have ergonomic chairs, designed to help you and your colleagues sit with the best posture. And for when you need to unwind, we have sofas, cushions and comfy chairs in which you can recline at your leisure.  

Plant some goodness

There has been a trend in recent years for offices to be lean and free from anything unnecessary. But what counts as unnecessary? You could argue that pictures, plants and personal items are defunct. Dr Chris Knight from Exeter University would disagree. In his own words, “if you put an ant into a ‘lean’ jam jar, or a gorilla in a zoo into a ‘lean’ cage – they’re miserable beasties. People in ‘lean’ offices are no different”. Studies conducted by Knight and his colleagues have found plants to increase productivity by 15% compared to completely lean offices.

Plants are also known to clean the air by removing harmful chemicals like benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, according to 1980s NASA research. They have the ability to reduce CO2 levels by 25% in non-air-conditioned offices too. A few plants can make a huge difference to the air we breathe and our moods, which is why you’ll always find plenty from Conservatory Archives at our offices.  

Stress and physical health

The connections between stress and problems with blood pressure, the heart and immune systems are well documented. Further research has also shown a physical correlation between stress and gut problems. Your brain talks to your stomach and gastrointestinal system, and vice versa. When you’re stressed, your gut may respond in negative ways. It can contract (part of the flight or fight response) and become inflamed, which can cause you to have stomach upset or pain. Reducing anxiety is important for our physical health as well as mental wellbeing. But how can employers combat stress among their teams? Exercise, wellness programmes and a balanced diet are key, and we’ll explore these next.   Fitness with feeling Thanks to feel-good hormones (endorphins) released during and after exercise, getting moving is proven to improve mood and sleep. Focusing on something physical and setting small but attainable challenges can also act as a positive coping strategy for people going through difficult times.

The reasons for doing exercise are compelling, but why then are only 65.5% of men and 54% of women reaching the recommended physical activity levels? Tiredness and lack of time are often at the top of people’s ‘against’ lists. At Fora, we employ a wellness coordinator and personal trainers who organise a schedule of yoga and workout classes for Residents. By removing the need to travel and slotting a few classes into the working day, it’s easier for our members to make the time for exercise.  

Food for thought

Studies have shown Mediterranean and Japanese diets to reduce the risk of depression by 25% to 35% compared to a typical Western diet. It’s thought the high quantities of vegetables, fruits, fish and unprocessed meats and grains are to thank. When we’re pressured at work, it can be difficult to find the time to prepare fresh, healthy meals. Employers can step in and shoulder this weight, just as we have at Fora. Our on-site restaurants and cafes do the hard work for you by serving nourishing food throughout the day. We also have fresh mint and ginger in every kitchen, because they’ve been found to reduce inflammation and pain, improve brain function and provide lots of vitamins.

For employers without well-stocked kitchens or restaurants on site, providing wholesome snacks is a good alternative. Fresh fruit, nuts, seeds and healthy bakes are all easy to serve (you’ll find them in our kitchens). And they can stop your team immediately reaching for the high-sugar, high-salt and high-fat snacks – which can only be a good thing.

Come and see how it’s done

We’d be more than happy to show you around our workspaces across London and Reading, so you can see how we’ve incorporated wellbeing into the working day. Simply get in touch using the ‘contact us’ button in the top right.