Welcome to the edition of Mad World News exclusively devoted to previewing the online Workplace Wellbeing by Design conference, to be held here at 3pm BST every day of the week beginning 14 September.
Some of the pieces in this edition are by my esteemed speakers, including Haworth’s Director of Global Workplace Research Dr Mike O’Neill; author and Human workplace expert Andy Swann; Kay Sargent, Senior Principal, Director of Workplace at architects HOK, and workplace consultant Sophie Patrikios.
They all, in one way or another, are addressing the need for us to re-think our workplaces, especially in the light of the COVID-19 crisis. ‘The challenges of 2020 have accelerated the agenda on workplace change and we now have two choices,’ says Andy Swann: ‘pull back and try to get things to how they were, or embrace the challenges to evolve a new version of our organisations, workplaces and work itself. His crucial point is: ‘As we move into this brave new world of work, we’ve moved from a position of innovation as a luxury, to innovation as a necessity.’
Which bodes well to some extent; but there is already a lot of work being done on the stresses of working from home and the new ones that a post-COVID workplace may – or may not – be able to alleviate. Stress at work is nothing new. But stress from home work? ‘Ironically,’ says Haworth’s Dr Mike O’Neill, ‘some of the very measures being considered to protect employee health at work, such as “social distancing,” reducing the number of people in the workplace, and minimizing group gatherings are directly contrary to fostering sense of community and social cohesion that can mitigate work situations that trigger stress, or even heal stress.’
Amongst the heated debates about the value, stresses, strains and benefits or otherwise of office – or home-based work, much focus is on the employer’s new responsibilities. One of the key underlying messages for Workplace Wellbeing by Design is that it pays to remember that there are personal responsibilities that make whether you are employer or employee irrelevant.
No one is going to thrive at work or at home without taking a long clear look inside and getting to grips with their own state of mind. One way or the other, creating a mindful, internally aware and focused attitude is what will get us through these uncertain times. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘interior design’.
Aidan Walker, Programme Director, Workplace Wellbeing by Design