Why office of the future must protect employees' mental health - Eamon Fox

There has currently – quite rightly – been a great deal written about the pressures of working from home and the strain that places on our mental health in the middle of this debilitating global pandemic.
Leeds is home to many growing businesses which make great efforts to protect their employees' wellbeingLeeds is home to many growing businesses which make great efforts to protect their employees' wellbeing
Leeds is home to many growing businesses which make great efforts to protect their employees' wellbeing

At the same time, the future of the office in a post Covid-19 world has been endlessly discussed.

It is now a most opportune time to link these two important topics together and devise a coherent strategy whereby mental health is placed at the forefront of modern office culture and design.

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If the office is to survive the recent working from home revolution, employers have to adapt and appreciate that the wellbeing, both physical and mental, of their staff is absolutely crucial.

The traditional 20th Century office, with its lack of personal space and privacy, its unimaginative design and decor, its basic facilities and its technological deficiencies, is obsolete. It cannot survive. In its place must come an office designed, first or foremost, for the people who are going to work in it.

Let’s be absolutely clear. We all need help with our mental health, even the office Alpha male whose cocky self-assurance and booming voice can often drive us to distraction.

So our new, post-pandemic offices, must appeal to us at all times of the day.

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A buzzy atrium makes the workplace feel more eclectic, making it more appealing to those who work there as well as those who might hope to work there one day.

But more importantly, it means there are plenty of informal meeting spaces that don’t require visitors to pass through security first, vastly increasing the scope for collaboration.

A major new campaign has been launched in the region to prioritise mental health at work and to tackle the stigma. This is Me Yorkshire – will encourage business leaders and employees to open the conversation to reduce the stigma around mental health, dispel myths and improve employee wellbeing for good. It was launched this week.

The This Is Me Yorkshire campaign encourages workplaces to support people who are at highest risk of developing poor mental wellbeing and help them put plans in place that will work for them, to maintain a positive wellbeing. This will help support the bold ambition of making Leeds the best city for health and wellbeing.

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The leading Leeds solicitor and prominent mental health campaigner, Jodie Hill, who is chairman of This Is Me, explained: “It is currently more vital than ever for businesses to look after the mental health of their colleagues. We all know that our workforce is the key to a successful business, and the Coronavirus pandemic has already caused a serious decline in our region’s mental health.

“This is Me is already well established in London and other regions, and I am delighted that we are now bringing it directly to Yorkshire.”

Jodie’s example, combined with imaginative new office developments such as Rushbond’s Majestic, Opus North’s 12 King Street and Kinrise’s 34 Boar Lane, point to a brighter future for mental health in the workplace in the post-pandemic world.

By Eamon Fox Partner and head of office agency Knight Frank in Leeds