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How to do workplace wellness in a better way

Employee wellness is more important than ever – and Fora knows what it takes to give workers what they need

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Businesses have long known that a healthy worker is a happy worker. Since World War II, employers have been giving their staff the means to keep their bodies in shape, starting with an emphasis on avoiding workplace injuries, and growing to provide gym facilities and healthy food. In the 21st century, a need to look after both body and mind has emerged – mental health is at the top of everyone’s priorities. But it isn’t a quick fix. Businesses must take a holistic approach to make sure all the needs of their workers are met.
“We need to encourage people to understand that productivity does not increase by being shackled to a desk, but by prioritising work-life balance and mental health,” says Katrina Larkin, co-founder of flexible workspace Fora. She believes that wellness is about mind, body and soul – all must be nurtured for us to truly thrive.

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Featured in Jan/Feb 2021 issue of:

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Wellness begins with making employees feel valued and inspired. Giving employees perks such as snacks and drinks is a good treat, but to reward them for their service they need to feel like their employer has put a more considered effort into providing for them. This starts with the right workspace. A 2019 study from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands found that office design had a significant impact on the psychological satisfaction of employees.
“It’s all about having the right mix of desirable spaces that can support what people do during the working day,” says Felicity Rocke, head of design at Fora. The company chooses the buildings it will occupy based on what workers need: generous amenities, alternative spaces to support focused work, areas rich in natural light and external spaces.
To provide the perfect office, considerations must be made on the most granular level. Harsh overhead lighting can grind down an employee’s patience, but provide softer, adjustable lights, and it can instantly make them more comfortable. Toilets in office blocks have a bad reputation, but making sure they are beautifully designed, well stocked and attractively fragranced can make the experience all the more pleasant. It’s in these ways that Fora excels – every detail has been considered to maximise employee comfort in a place they may spend more time in over the course of a week than their own homes.
By choosing a progressive, flexible workspace provider, it takes the challenge of providing these things away from upper management, allowing them more time to concentrate on their core business’s productivity. Keith Grose, the office leader for Plaid, a startup working in Fora Folgate Street, says that he no longer has to sweat the small stuff: “It’s all taken care of, so you can really focus on getting your job done,” says Grose.
Once these external issues are fixed, you move to working on the internal. The World Health Organisation says that employers can promote mental health by providing staff with resources to help. For example, companies could have access to therapists and doctors, giving staff somewhere to go if they are struggling. Fora has partnered with services including Medi-Pod and Dr Julian, so residents can access help online through video sessions and over text. They also can take matters into their own hands by clearing their mind with a quick cycle on a rentable Brompton Bike, or can escape to a reading room for some quiet alone time.
One of the reasons why Fora is in a leading position in the flex office market is that they go above and beyond to provide wellness boosts. With all the stresses of 2020, Fora organised its second wellness festival in September, with 32 events on topics such as nutrition, DNA, sleep and racism in the wellness industry, and classes in meditation and yoga combined with circus skills. Guests included DJ Rob da Bank, health trainer Tally Rye, Grace Victory and Lorraine Russell.
Fora residents could choose whether to attend in person or online in order to take a break from work – it’s about giving the opportunity to be inspired throughout the working day by innovative speakers, rather than expecting maximum productivity when a worker doesn’t have time for themselves. All these talks continue to be available on Fora’s YouTube channel.
“Wellness is a leading component of the workplace evolution which Fora is helping to forge,” says Larkin. “We know that thriving businesses are built by thriving people.”

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PREVIOUS FEATURES

WIRED-NOV-DEC-2020

Flexible workspaces will be the answer to Covid-19 office issue
Working from home has exposed the failings of old-fashioned workplaces. Employees need creative spaces that actually work for human beings

Covid-19 has thrown the future of offices into uncertainty. When workers were sent home for lockdown, many started realising that they preferred not to undergo the lengthy commutes to sit in a dull, lifeless box all day — a report by Cardiff and Southampton universities suggests that nine in ten workers who have worked from home during lockdown would like this to continue in some form.

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All of a sudden, a stick has been stuck in the spokes of the $30trn global commercial property market, and people have been left wondering if physical office space is in the future for the working world. Enrico Sanna, co-founder of flexible workspace FORA, thinks this is because the average office isn’t working for employees. “How people get excited working from home is a failure of the office,” says Sanna. “There is no reason why the office needs to be a dry, boring place.”

While the future is uncertain, one thing is for sure: a change has been ignited. We’re seeing priorities rearranged to suit real needs rather than lifelong traditions. This is where flexible workspaces come in, as working from home is not viable in the long run.

Stuck at home, many workers suffer from a lack of variety in their day and miss out on socialising with their colleagues, leading to feelings of isolation. Since the start of the pandemic, the proportion of people experiencing depression symptoms has risen from seven to 11 per cent, according to a global survey of almost 300,000 people by Kantar Health. Not everyone has the luxury of a home office, and when you work in the same rooms that you eat, sleep and relax in, a healthy work/life balance fades from view.

Quality, flexible spaces can change the way the modern workplace functions by addressing these concerns and that’s where FORA leads the field — every one of its buildings has been crafted to contain valuable spaces that work for human beings.

It’s about creating an environment where workers have more freedom — they can move around, make the space their own and take full advantage of the many facilities, rather than being stuck in one spot. Workers whose companies allow them to decide what kind of space they get to work in are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, as well as perform better than those which don’t, according to the 2013 Workplace Survey from Gensler, an architectural firm.

Flexible workspaces such as FORA are much more vibrant than your standard office, as not only do you get a desk of your own, you also have countless other places to work to suit your needs. In FORA buildings you can perch in the sunlight-filled atrium or station yourself in a spacious (and snack-filled) kitchen. There are quiet areas to escape to, such as reading rooms that are well-stocked with inspiring books, and soundproof phone booths to keep your conversations private. The sheer variety of workspaces is something that home working can’t compete with.

What sets FORA apart from its flexible-workspace competitors is its focus on hospitality. As soon as you step in the door, the concierge team is there to greet you with a friendly smile. Before setting up the company, Sanna saw how well the hospitality industry works, and how excited people get at the prospect of spending a night in a hotel, even though they know a stranger has been sleeping in their bed only the night before. This is why FORA kitchens are kept clean and tidy throughout the day, each room is beautifully decorated, and any suggestions on how to improve are taken into account and implemented. The front-of-house staff have received an unmatched level of training, thanks to FORA’s partnership with one of the leading hospitality schools Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne.

People are social beings who require interaction, and those based at home are missing the intrinsic human experience of working together. Office workers at FORA develop a lasting relationship with its employees as they assist with anything they might need throughout the day.

Companies such as Dropbox and Plaid have both taken advantage of Fora’s flexible workspace model. Those brands, and any company who works at Fora get to attend events across the entire network of locations. Fora’s philosophy in light of Covid-19 is to celebrate returning to work for those who are ready, but to cater for those who aren’t — live streams of every event are available for those at home, such as the week-long wellness festival held in September.

Working from home during Covid has been about hunkering down. When a vaccine, a cure, or a fully repressed R-rate is achieved, we will emerge from our defensive business practices and want to grow again. The key to that growth is human interaction, innovation and productivity, created through the positive energy of creative masses clustered in compelling workplaces.

“When you ask our customers how they feel about coming back to Fora offices, they say ‘we’ve missed it’,” says Sanna.

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