Why more employers are investing in ‘cool’ offices

cool officeIf you think “cool” offices are confined to slightly off the wall startups in the trendier bits of London and Manchester, think again. A study reported in the Facilities Management Journal found that a third of employers had added a “cool” element to their workplaces, in order to increase productivity and bolster staff morale.

Cycle storage, showers, bean bags and quiet spaces are all being added, in an attempt to improve employee wellbeing. As contented staff are not combing LinkedIn for a new position every Monday morning, there are plenty of benefits for the employer.

In fact, the study also revealed that 20% of workers have left a job because they didn’t like the surroundings they had to work in. Given the expense of recruiting staff, employers see the cost-benefit of any investment that will boost staff retention. Another bonus is that these kinds of facilities can be used to attract new talent into the organisation.

More than bike racks and bean bags

Facilities managers now need to be able to provide a wide range of cool features when they furnish workspaces, with the main emphasis very much on health and wellbeing. An impressive 40% of employers believe that reducing stress and improving employee well-being pays off with increased productivity and better attendance.

So lunchtime yoga and fitness sessions, gyms, games rooms, and even indoor play equipment such as slides, are all now becoming more common. One of the developments that are interesting for facilities management professionals is to see the way in which physical furnishings, such as sofas and relaxation pods, are part of an integrated approach to wellbeing that may also include lunchtime talks or bringing pets to work. One can’t help wondering whether some staff may not find the office manager’s pet tarantula a little less than relaxing, however.

What’s holding back this movement?

Those employers who aren’t intending to give their staff any new wellbeing facilities are not necessarily present day Scrooges. Although 17% think that the cool office trend is a fad that will pass, for nearly half, the overwhelming problem is lack of space. Where this rules out space-hungry features such as quiet rooms and relaxation pods, employers are still able to offer employees many of the facilities they now want. For example, where there isn’t enough room for a gym and shower, employers are offering discounts on local gyms and healthy eating restaurants. They’re arranging for motivational speakers to come in during the lunch hour or giving staff free access to fitness classes and local swimming pools.

One thing is certain – the trend for remote working, with employees paying only occasional visits to the office, will increase the pressure on facilities management companies to provide an environment that is welcoming and that aids productivity. The office will need to justify its cost, by providing more than a desk, a PC and a phone. The extra perks will change over time, but the days of lateral desking in tones of beige, and a dingy coffee area may have gone – much to the relief of many staff.