Business 12 December 2016
It was upon pouring myself my second coffee of the day in our spacious 13th floor WeWork space that it dawned on me; I work somewhere cooler than most, and it’s not even that cool.
There’s two businessman across the long counter top from me in deep conversation over greasy burritos. I can hear snippets of their conversation, and if I was nosier I could hear it all. Not being the slightest bit interested in anything other than what’s going into their mouths however, I neglect the idioms of their speech for an overall grasp of the situation - that nobody expects me to be of corporate espionage, or mischief. Everybody works seamlessly here, in harmony almost, not bothered by the whir of other business going on around them in a constant rhythm of phone calls, heavy-heeled steps and buzzers. The day is fluid and so are the movements in and out of the glass enclosures. WeWork is not a fixed abode - it’s a new-age office, reflective of a workspace revolution, one that is undoubtedly affecting employee culture and productivity.
Our neighbors here at in this communal office are an amalgamation of industries: fashion, finance, tech and every other clique imaginable. We tussle with each other in the lounge room, share beers on a Friday and mindlessly admire each other’s office spaces and attire before questioning the optics or functionality of their business and wondering if everyone will survive the next decade in the business world. Who are we? It doesn’t really matter, we’re not competitors, we're just sharing this inclusive and modern space one sip of hot coffee at a time.
It was perhaps Google who lead the way, ushering out the cubicled dark ages and ushering in a new era of fun working environments, artfully-designed open spaces and a litany of cost-free perks like nap rooms, workout classes and catered lunches - but it quickly caught on. Gone are the days of traditional and tightly packed cubicle-planned office floors. Gone are the days when office functionality spanned 9-5 in a hot, penned-in space. Modern corporations are now creating spaces people want to work at rather than where they have to work - where you’ll be happy to stay longer, lousy with the beauty and relaxed nature of your surroundings. This win-win situation makes us wonder, are these beautiful new-age spaces helping employers in the long-run? Are they actually causing employees to stay longer and work harder?
With so much confetti around a work room, one has to wonder if a professional level of working focus is being compromised. Are people getting more done - or are these upgraded aesthetics a way to make people give more to their business lives? We’ve asked Alex Cohen -Lead, Commercial Specialist for brokerage CORE, to comment on the changes occurring in workspace lay-out and how this is affecting the average workers’ psyche. Cohen, who has years of concentrated analysis and research at his back, does believe that open office spaces are the way forward, and barring any serious complications, will be the eventual model for most offices of the future.
"They create campuses with amenities that are all designed to motivate their people to stay as long as possible in the workplace."
- Alex Cohen
Technology companies have paved the way for this office model, lead by giants like Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Airbnb. Workers have responded particularly well to the change - receptive to the ease with which ideas can be shared across a room, conundrums cracked over a large table and naps taken in designated ‘quiet’ areas. These billion dollar companies are thriving and attracting the world’s brightest minds not least for the status, but for the amenities that come part and parcel with working in these environments. The office formula is no longer desk + computer + chair = ready. Instead it is gym, restaurant, iPad lab, nap room, bean bag area x open spaces = internet. The mobilization of devices means nobody needs a fixed abode anymore - you can work from anywhere - including the treadmill.
"Some people work very productively in an open environment where the stimulation of people and ideas energizes them to be creative and effective," says Cohen. "For companies in technology in particular, like Facebook or Google, the constant interaction that a very open work space allows appears to foster team work and in essence forces people to share ideas and challenges.
For individuals with ADD, learning or working in a very open environment hurts their productivity – this has been proven in research – as the distractions that an open space create stifle their attention span and focus."
It’s those companies and industries that have been around since the dark ages — before the internet — that have put up the most resistance to the new office models, with law firms vehement about rejecting the change, barring a few in London, and banks, slow to embrace hashing out fledgling finance ideas over long tables with people you barely know. At its base, this model focuses on an interaction and inclusion with your team the likes of which old-school bankers and lawyers holed up in corner offices have never seen before - the adjustment is strange and almost alien - but it’s coming. Being a team is non-negotiable these days, in these offices.
To up the ante at her business, Virginia girl-boss Sarah Everhart, has revolutionized her office by introducing collaborative boxing and dancing workouts into the work week to adrenalize her colleagues into action. Sarah’s attitude behind the shift has invigorated her staff whilst encouraging them into a fitter working week. The exercise involved releases endorphins (making everyone happier), but also boosts team morale and cultivates a sense of company spirit.
"We are pushing ourselves to be the best version of ourselves that we can be, and I believe that has translated naturally into the work environment."
- Sarah Everhart
Everhart’s firm has reaped the rewards of team training, as have the likes of Google, Facebook and their techie comrades, who spend millions each year on team outings and sessions - keeping them at the top of those ‘Best places to work’ lists churned out yearly.
Social psychologists, big corporations and activity leaders have clashed heads and produced a new working system that is pushing the envelope for open and inclusive office spaces, and I can’t imagine it's going to stop. Watch this space as the cubicle continues to disappear and inclusion becomes the new norm.
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With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.