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Bo Kaap, Cape Town, 8001

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Creating inclusive workplaces

Promote well-being, despite space constraints

By Angelique Ruzicka

, |

Creating inclusive workplaces

Promote well-being, despite space constraints

By Angelique Ruzicka

, |

3 min read

Working from home has become popular, but there are some jobs – particularly when it comes to security or managing an estate – that can’t always be done remotely.

To make people feel safe about returning to work, some companies are trying to prioritise workers’ health and wellbeing by introducing flexible work policies during the pandemic.

Some are also transforming workplaces to boost mental health and make them more inclusive. If this is what you want to try on a residential estate, you may have some space constraints.

However, it’s still possible to make some simple modifications to make the environment more pleasant and workable – particularly if your staff are working flexibly, sharing space or if they have extra needs to work efficiently. Here are some quick, effective things you can do make to your working environment better:

Analyse and adapt what you have

Zama Zaca, head of new business of design and build specialists Tetris South Africa, says: ‘The first thing is to analyse the effective use of the space. With the introduction of hybrid working and more flexibility, less fixed desk space might be needed and more workstations for multiple use can be introduced.’

Consider the neurodiversity of your staff

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in about 160 children globally has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and according to one leading researcher from Cape Town’s UCT, around 2% of our local population are affected by ASD.

Companies are becoming aware of neurological conditions such as ADHD (attention deficient hyperactivity disorder), dyslexia and autism, among others.

When designing for neurodiversity, people’s sensory processes need to be considered, as we all experience light, texture and space differently.

Zaca says: ‘We’re incorporating things like natural light and greenery into our designs, which is great from a sustainability perspective, but also helps with employee health, as being around nature has been proven to boost people’s moods.’

Deal with distractions

According to a report by Udemy, more than two-thirds of people feel that distractions at the office are their number one concern. Some say intermittent, unpredictable noise can be an issue, while others say that offices that are too quiet can be a distraction as well. Zaca says: ‘To mitigate distractions, employees need options to find the right solution that meets their specific needs. Include areas for focus, areas for concentration, and tech-free zones where staff can escape the impact of constantly being pinged by technology.’

Change the paint

Doing something as simple as changing the paint on the walls can boost productivity. Consider your environment and the types of people and professions that work in the space. Colours can affect our moods. For example, it is thought that red can evoke a sense of urgency, so for physical jobs like construction it can stimulate energy levels.

Also consider climate conditions when choosing a paint. Houses in warm parts of the world are traditionally painted white. This is because white paint reflects sunlight, which means the walls absorb less heat.

Don’t only consider painting the walls though. Some paint companies claim their roof paint – often white or silver in colour – can reduce internal temperatures by as much as 25% or 10°C.

Add some art

You don’t need to populate the office walls with expensive pieces by William Kentridge, but having some art – even if bought from a department store – is better than having none.

According to Dr Craig Knight, who studied the psychology of working environments for 12 years at the University of Exeter, art can boost productivity, lower stress and increase wellbeing.

Knight and his team conducted studies into the effectiveness of art in the workplace. His findings show that people who worked in an enriched office worked around 15% quicker than those in a sparse office. What’s more, they had fewer health complaints.

You don’t need to overhaul office spaces completely to make workstations more inclusive. With some simple tweaks and adjustments that are within your budget, you can consider most, if not all, of your employees’ needs.

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