The Loneliness Epidemic: 3 Ways to Design a More Inclusive & Social WorkplaceReading Time: 4 minutes
By Sophie Armstrong
While it’s natural at times to feel overwhelmed or stressed at work, research by the mental health charity, Mind, suggests that 60% of employees have reported feeling lonely or isolated in the office. Leaving employees to suffer in silence could lead to poor mental health, resulting in increased sick days which, ultimately, could damage businesses as a result.
That’s why today, we’re offering our top ways that employers can combat the growing epidemic of workplace loneliness using interior design. From a social hub in the staff kitchen, to breakout areas and versatile office layouts, we’ll cover it all so that you can achieve a workspace that encourages social interaction in a bid to end office isolation.
Adopt a versatile office layout
The layout of the office space has more of an impact on creating an inclusive and social workplace than you may have initially thought – after all, the more your space promotes collaboration, the less lonely your employees are likely to feel.
In the past, office areas have previously favoured closed-off areas such as cubicles or segregated workplaces in an aim of promoting productivity. However, it seems that these office designs have begun to be outdated, without acknowledging your employees’ social needs. They actively discourage collaboration, often resulting in a highly stressful working environment where employees are more likely to become introverted and place themselves under a lot of pressure rather than asking for help.
Collaborative spaces often don’t require a full office overhaul. From air-hockey tables to beanbags or whiteboards, small gathering spaces to bounce ideas around or simply relax for a well-earned break are great for restoring your employees’ attention spans. Collaborative spaces can allow small groups to share their ideas, making it easier to suggest new innovative processes and relieve the pressure on putting forward an idea in a closed space. Ultimately, this will lead to happy workers who feel included in the emotional culture of the workplace – forming a stronger bond within your team, as a result.
Make space for a social hub
When it’s designed properly, the kitchen has the potential to become the heart of your office. Kitchens are natural spots for gatherings and conversation to take place – from morning coffee making to chatting over lunch preparations.
A cramped kitchen with little light will create an overcrowded, uncomfortable space. So instead, why not opt for an open-plan dining area with enough space for your employees to eat and relax? Adding a breakfast bar in your office space will provide an informal seating area, while also increasing the food preparation space available. As the focal point of the kitchen, a breakfast bar is likely to achieve a high amount of traffic, so complete the design with a durable, high-quality granite worktop to ensure that your social hub is built for longevity as well as functionality. With multi-level collaboration becoming increasingly popular amongst modern work environments that Pixar and Google are renowned for, there’s no better time to optimise your kitchen space with collaboration at the forefront of the mind.
Create breakout areas
Enclosed workspaces can often result in employees spending much more time glued to their computer screens. To combat this office design which limits collaboration and discussion, why not create a breakout area for employees to discuss their ideas, hold informal meetings or simply relax for a ten minute break during a tough job?
It’s as simple as purchasing a few cushioned seats and positioning them at the end of your office, or if space allows for it, providing a room which is solely used for breaks. Alternatively, if space is a little on the tight side, replicate collaborative break times using scheduled conversational activities such as introducing stand-up office meetings, where employees are encouraged to discuss their days and where they may need help. Stand up desks are a great way to encourage employees to gather and share their ideas at the start of the day. With 44% of people feeling that work-related pressures isolated them from other staff members, it’s time to advocate sharing workload responsibilities. So, to encourage conversation across desk spaces, arrange desks into large tables in a meeting-style set up, which is much more likely to encourage collaboration than segregated tables.
With our design ideas, we hope that you’ll be on your way to creating an inclusive and social working environment with collaboration at the forefront of the mind. As humans are social animals, it’s natural for us to seek connections with our work colleagues – which we believe office spaces should reflect to ensure a healthy and happy work environment.
Sophie Armstrong is a content creator for granite and quartz worktop specialists Burlington Granite, who provide a full bespoke worktop solution by offering templating, cutting, polishing and fitting, all driven by 25 years of industry experience.