Health and safety has acquired new prominence over the past year as COVID-19 has forced a rethink of the workplace and put much more emphasis on employee wellness. The reality is that employees that are well looked after tend also to be more productive and engaged and the way their office space is designed can have a big impact on this. With the average working week now around 40 hours long there is even more need for employers to ensure that office design has a positive impact where health and safety is concerned.
How does office design affect health and safety?
- Compliance. There are some elements of health and safety guidance that come from legislation and if these standards are not being met that could put an employer in breach of the law. From maintenance of workplace equipment to safe storage and removing risks and hazards, it’s essential to ensure that any office design has legal compliance as its basis. If not, there are penalties that can be imposed by law and this could also open the business up to an individual employee claim.
- Minimising the risk of fire. Office design can have a big impact here, for example ensuring that there are fire extinguishers and fire doors in the correct locations and that any evacuation of the building will have a clear escape route.
- An optimal layout. Many employers pay little attention to details such as layout, assuming that key considerations for office design are going to be the most effective use of space and fitting as many people in as possible. At the moment, it’s going to be essential for any office design that reflects health and safety requirements to take into account the need for social distancing and keeping people safe – and feeling safe – during the pandemic. Also key to note is the fact that office layout can actually have a big impact on the business’ bottom line. The way the office is designed can affect employee productivity and how engaged staff feel with the business and the work they are doing. Getting the most from design – and from staff – will mean focusing on aesthetics, as well as comfort and the experience that employees have when they’re at their desks. Health and safety can play a big role here, including when it comes to individual workstation assessment and employee comfort.
- Natural light. Designing an office that makes the most of natural light isn’t just an aesthetic tip, it’s also crucial for health and safety. Lots of natural light helps employees to avoid painful eye strain and can be critical in preventing accidents. Plus, it can also boost mood and the more natural light you have the lower your energy costs will be. If you’re using electric light then make sure you replace any flickering bulbs promptly.
- Hygienic bathrooms. Office design should integrate sufficient bathroom facilities and ensure that they are going to be hygienic and easy to use. Especially at the moment it’s going to be crucial to frequently clean bathrooms and provide all necessary facilities for staff to regularly wash their hands.
These are just some of the ways in which the way an office is designed can affect health and safety. Talk to Park City’s health and safety outsourcing team to find out more.