How co-working spaces are redefining wellness, wellbeing and work

Across Australia, sick leave costs small businesses an average of $20,000 every year.

There are obvious benefits towards keeping yourself and your workers healthy, allowing your team to remain on deck, engaged and focused.

Luckily, the decentralisation of the modern workforce is making it easier for the average worker to focus on their wellness and wellbeing. The move away from cubicles and into co-working spaces encourages healthier choices, which in turn creates more productive workers. Add the incorporation of on-site gym features, architectural design and a sense of community, and the benefits of becoming part of a co-working space is a trend worth jumping onto.

The correlation between good health, wellness and workers

The numbers don’t lie. Global research has demonstrated that when employee health and wellness is better managed, their engagement soared from 7 percent all the way up to 55 percent.

Additionally, workers often report that their creativity and innovation rises from 20 percent to 72 percent when they are feeling healthy and happy, while workspaces that promote health and wellbeing enjoy a 25.3 percent reduction in workers taking sick leave overall.

The benefits and inclusions that co-working spaces offer both businesses and the teams within them lead to healthier and more engaged workers – something the modern workforce so desperately needs. So with that in mind, here are some of the best ways these innovative spaces are improving workplace wellbeing.

Healthy eating options

Unsurprisingly, one in five Australian workers eat lunch at their desk on a frequent basis. And due to the rushed nature of work, it usually also means unhealthier options full of processed foods, low levels of nutrition and fatty fast-food.

Luckily, co-working spaces are helping ease this challenge by providing in-house eating options that are as nutritious as they are convenient. As well as these alternatives (available inside the co-working space buildings themselves) their central locations usually mean healthy eating is easily accessible in the local vicinity as well.

And by collaborating and working with new people, there are networking and socialising options to be had by exploring these more nutritious eateries.

In-house gyms and fitness classes

Co-working spaces make it easy to get to the gym, often by including facilities inside the same complex – like those at United Co.

In other cases, these workplaces will often provide discounts to local gyms to encourage workers to get there on breaks or before and after work. Many of these locations are also welcoming third-party companies into their buildings, offering a range of wellness services like yoga classes and massages. The result? A holistic approach to the way life meets work, allowing for improved health, productivity and motivation.

Even simple things like adding bicycle lockup facilities encourage workers to ditch the car and ride to work, helping them engage in a healthier approach.

Incorporating design into co-working spaces

While the introduction of gyms, fitness classes, healthy eating options and other benefits are promoting improved wellbeing in co-working spaces, the buildings and spaces themselves are also significantly influential.

Grey partitions and bad fluorescent lighting used to be the trademark of the traditional office, but this is rapidly changing as building managers realise the benefits of architecture on wellbeing.

Recently, Bond University’s Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour Libby Sander said poor workplace design, low lighting and high noise levels all led to elevated levels of stress and heart rates.

Most notably, the quality of air and lighting plays a huge role in the way our brains choose to function and apply productivity, she noted. When we’re unable to access these important design features, we’re left with a lack of poor oxygen levels, harmful gases from surrounding furniture and toxic chemicals that come with the modern workplace. Usually, we fall blind to realising how much these aspects are affecting our health and ability to work efficiently.

Some of the tips Sander recommends includes staircases in the centre of the building to promote exercise, plants to improve the air quality and large windows that allow plenty of natural lighting to spill into the office space.

Sleep pods and the art of the power nap

Across the globe, workplaces are starting to offer little corners of the building where workers can grab a quick nap during a busy day. While this may initially seem counter-productive, science is arguing otherwise.

The ‘power nap’ is an effective way to reboot and refresh your brain, decreasing stress and elevating focus. Pilots have long known the benefits of this gem, with recent evidence showing that a 26-minute kip allows them to record a 34 percent rise in performance and 54 percent spike in alertness.

Additionally, modern athletes tend to grab a quick snooze before a big match to maximise their focus.

There is a golden rule, though: 30 minutes is about the average time you should limit your power nap to, as anything more or less can make you wake up in a groggy state, negating the benefits.

It gets better – coffee can help regulate how long you sleep for. By drinking a coffee (espresso is best for a quick fix), you can duck off to sleep and the effects of the caffeine will kick in right about the time you need to be waking up. Win-win.

Work/life balance

Not only do co-working spaces offer benefits that assist wellness across the board, the shift away from the traditional work week further supports this as well.

Unfortunately, research has shown that Australia has fallen behind the rest of the western world, in terms of time management, with most of us reporting that we are time-poor.

Three quarters of SME owners work 50 to 80 hours a week with only 1 percent reporting that they were able to adhere to a 40-hour work week, which leads to stress and can ultimately result in burnout.

Co-working spaces can help you balance your workload easy the ongoing pressures of factors outside of work. Employees have access to the spaces around the clock and can design their own work hours around other commitments they may have at home.

This is especially beneficial for those with young families and those who are juggling work and study, providing a space that removes the time stress of a traditional nine-to-five job.

These are just some of the benefits that co-working spaces offer SMEs, entrepreneurs, freelancers, students and remote workers, with larger corporations now jumping on board the trend as well.

The flexibility is unmatched. No matter your line of work, you can opt for a private space (if it is quiet and seclusion that you crave)in a vibrant shared community, or in tandem with other like-minded people who can help you build your brand and your business.

Best of all, all of the essential corporate technologies you may need are available for you to use – from phones through to high-speed wireless internet, printing and copying facilities, meeting rooms and video conferencing.

Top it all off with plenty of wellness opportunities, and your life at work suddenly doesn’t seem so work-focused.

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