We must do better for our working environments

There have been a fair number of posts recently about people returning to the office. Now I’m a fan of the office and it serves a part of my working time – that said I see the benefits of alternating working models and spend my time split across both home, corporate office and co-working spaces. All this “you must” return to  the office though seems to come with a “nothing in the office has changed”. The perspex sheets are down and the remnants of a distancing sticker are still on the floor – we need to do better here. 

There are a number of areas which really resonate as needing to change (well there is probably hundreds) and I’ve shared some thoughts below based on discussions and personal experiences recently: 

Air quality: How ventilated is the building? The monitoring of the quality of air in our buildings is key and something really the last two years have demonstrated. Covid-19 will not be the last airborne virus. Appropriate filtering of air is needed and particularly ensuring that air is not simply recirculated around the building. Underpinned by systems that maintain and monitor ventilation. And linked to ventilation is ensuring that materials used have low emissions in the first pace to help maintain an improved quality of air

Light: And it’s not just about the view. Yes, a window view on level 30 is great BUT windows are more than just for the view, they allow day light to flood into a building. Natural light has so many benefits for us. There may be a need to structure the internal layout to ensure the light doesn’t cause discomfort and challenge but that’s not too hard to do while allowing us to benefit from good old sunlight. And for ourselves, getting outdoors during the day has a huge benefit on our mental and physical health. We can also apply this to our homes as well – ensuring that we deplete light levels before bed – no i-phone scrolling before bed!

Water quality: Have you ever been to a building where the water looked a slightly odd colour from the tap? Ensuring that the water provided to customers is purified and monitored is a given now for buildings – there shouldn’t be a need to import drinking water into a building because the existing isn’t fit for purpose.

Temperature: At home we have the ability to adjust the temperature to suit our needs. Ignoring the current cost of that heating (which may deter some people) we can create a working environment that is comfortable. These needs need replicating in offices. Maintaining the appropriate temperature and even humidity in buildings is needed. This could be via allowing individuals to maintain the right environment for them via an App or simply ensuring the building is well managed such that it is adjusted in a timely manner. We’ve all sat near that person who is always too cold! Creating individual thermal controls allows choice and flexibility.

Noise pollution: We want our physical and mental health to be protected and noise is certainly something that can harm us (and distract us). If anyone has been on the underground you know that damage to our hearing can be subtle from exposure to certain levels of noise. The obvious first step is ensuring the rightprotection from external noise, like traffic. There is also a need for protecting internally too. We’ve all done the video call where you have to tell someone to go on mute! Creating spaces that allow for the task at hand is essential.  

Security: You don’t want to feel like you’re entering Fort Knox but at the same time people want to feel like they are safe and secure BUT with seamless transition to where they need to be. Think about access control, video monitoring and more. 

So let’s not make excuses for ourselves, we can and must do better for our working environments.

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