Insights

How can I adapt my office space to benefit employees and what permissions do I need?

February 1, 2022

This article was first published in CONNECT magazine.

It is more important than ever for employers to think about building office spaces with different environments to maximise employee productivity and happiness.

We spend almost a third of our lives at work and the advent of the pandemic boldly questioned long-held assumptions about how work should be done and the role of the office. Many of us were initially forced to embrace flexible working practices and techniques which, almost two years on, have largely been retained as many employees elect to continue to work remotely from home at least part of the week. Interestingly, recent research has also shown that today’s younger professionals may in fact value office ‘perks’ over pay.

These changes don’t have to necessarily cost the earth or involve planning applications and can be as simple as improving the following aspects of office life:

Air

  • Develop green cleaning protocols
  • Install air filtration systems
  • Maintain a healthy level of humidity
  • Open windows

Nourishment

  • Promote healthy food options by making fresh fruit and vegetables available
  • Improve access to good hand washing facilities
  • Foster mindful eating – create dedicated eating spaces
  • Install a water cooler

Light

  • Consider adding skylights
  • Control glare
  • Maximise natural lighting – consider adding mirrors to reflect the natural light you already get
  • Replace flickering lights
  • Layer different types of lighting in a workspace, such as ambient and task lighting

Fitness

  • Open and accessible stairways
  • Shower facilities
  • Bicycle storage
  • Install standing desks
  • Provide employees with different areas to work in during the day
  • Create quiet zones, breakout areas and informal meeting areas, and creative spaces for brainstorming

Comfort

  • Create collaborative spaces, as well as areas to relax and de-stress
  • Add greenery: potted plants, living walls or flower gardens
  • Design outdoor spaces if possible
  • Offer flexibility – give options for where and how employees want to work

What formal permissions will I need to make changes?

As a general rule, planning permission is not required for internal works to a building. There may, however, be other controls on internal works that need to be considered, such as listed building consent and building regulations.

In addition, if you are a leaseholder, there may be restrictions on how and what you can change or alter. If you wish to make significant internal changes to the property or change its use, you are likely to have to apply to your landlord for permission beforehand. Your landlord is likely to seek its costs in dealing with any application for consent and, depending on the terms of your lease, you may be required to reverse any alterations when you leave the building.

Now is the time

As more and more businesses have returned to the office, many employers have already started to take steps to reimagine their workplaces, with a focus on how those improvements positively influence employee health, wellbeing, employee satisfaction and performance.

Businesses should use this moment to break away from the inertia of the past and dispense with tired habits and systems. A well-planned reinvention of the office can provide what every good employer strives to accomplish: a safe environment where people can enjoy their work and collaborate with their colleagues to create solutions and generate social capital.

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