Re-Thinking The Office Environment

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(Photo: Julius Konttinen)

With over one-year of remote working under our belts, and us moving towards a reopening of ‘normal life’, is a return to the office on the horizon?

In recent times, companies that scored employees on their presence in the office were forced to trust their people to work from home. On the employee side, people were forced to adapt – some loved the improved work/life balance they experienced, others struggled with the isolation and solitude. What has been proved, is that engagement, productivity and results are far more important performance criteria than physical presence ever was, and all of the above can be achieved from a remote location.

It is probably fair to assume the COVID pandemic has created a shift in how we work. It appears, for the most part, we may be moving towards a hybrid situation, where people will work remotely and in the office environment. While we would have been lost without Teams and Zoom, you just can’t beat the type of social interaction and collaboration that can be achieved by meeting in person. That said, more office presence will mean we will have to rethink workspaces to optimise the built environment for employee health and wellbeing. Many employers were already investing in the WELL Building Standard™, the leading global rating system for buildings that enhance health and wellness. Others may do so now to meet post-pandemic expectations.

Vital to health and wellbeing, and at the top of the agenda, should be the lighting within a building.  “Light is one of the main drivers of the circadian system, which starts in the brain and regulates physiological rhythms throughout the body’s tissues and organs, affecting hormone levels and the sleep-wake cycle…lights of high frequency and intensity promote alertness, while the lack of this stimulus signals the body to reduce energy expenditure and prepare for rest.” (The International WELL Building Institute™, June 2021).

Put simply, the fixed lighting installed in many office environments is not natural. Understanding how our internal body clock works, and moving to a more human-centric lighting system, will make people happier, healthier and more productive. The fact is; light doesn’t just help us see (as the natural sleep/wake cycle illustrates). Our brains treat light, at different colour temperatures, as signals and tells our bodies to react and prepare for certain activities.

To design and install such a lighting system is not necessarily a difficult task that is beyond reach, the technology and expertise are readily available. At MODULA, we design, supply and commission intelligent lighting systems that provide the dynamic lighting experience our bodies react best to. Our lighting control systems (manufactured by Helvar), provide the latest DALI-2 technology that allow for light-intensity control and a delivery of light at changing colour temperatures throughout the day. There is no uplift in cost for such controls, as all such functionality is already built into our digital components. We also provide human-centric luminaires that deliver ‘natural’ light, through advanced LED technology. While these luminaires are a little higher in cost, they are not excessively so and, therefore, surely worth the investment.

So, while we plan for a return to the office in some form, employers might consider how they can create a healthier, happier built environment, one that boosts motivation levels and productivity, while, at the same time, enhancing health and wellbeing. And, while we all embrace the change, it will be great to, once again, also embrace the irreplaceable experience of human interaction.

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