Making space to take time out in the office

Amid a growing focus on wellbeing, quiet spaces are becoming an increasingly common feature of today’s offices

July 24, 2019

As companies gradually adapt to calls for a better work-life balance, more offices are installing quiet spaces for reflection, meditation or prayer.

In some cases, these are small converted meeting rooms with basic furniture inside. But increasingly, firms are putting more thought into where these rooms are located and they’re spending more money on their design from facilities to help people wash before they pray to mood lighting and temperature control.

It’s part of a wider shift towards employers paying more attention to the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of their employees, says Daithí Naughton, design co-ordinator at Tétris UK, a JLL subsidiary. 

“The majority of employers are now trying to appeal to a younger generation of employees who expect their workplace to better cater for their needs through the types of facilities they can offer,” he explains.

“Employers want to be able to say: if you want to pray during the day, we can help you to do that by providing high-quality facilities’. It’s not a perk – more of a sign that they’re committed to supporting their employees from across many different backgrounds.”

Keeping the faith

At the London offices of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, its quiet room has a Kabala sign on the ceiling to indicate direction of Mecca for the Islamic faith. And the entrance is behind the direction a person would be praying towards so anyone entering the space wouldn’t be walking in front of them.

The room also has soft lighting, a storage cupboard for mats, a sink and a basin to wash feet. At pharmaceutical company Bayer, a bespoke foot wash lets people sit on stools around the trough and wash their feet inside.

“If quiet rooms are being used by different faiths, it’s important no one group dominates the space either through use or through internal decoration,” says Naughton. Colours tend to be kept neutral and the space minimalist with storage for different groups to keep their belongings in.

Breathing space

Yet quiet rooms aren’t just meant for religious purposes; they’re also available to people who need a bit of time away from today’s constant stream of emails, conference calls and deadlines.

Over two-thirds of UK adults have been affected in some way by mental health issues over the last year, according to The Mental Health Foundation. And quiet spaces are increasingly part of a larger corporate wellbeing strategy that aims to create a more positive workplace experience and keep people energised and engaged.

It also has business benefits; the Mental Health Foundation estimates that addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12 percent.

As such, quiet spaces can be used for activities like small lunchtime yoga or meditation classes as part of a scheduled use of the room so it remains accessible to all who may want to use it for different purposes.

However, there also need to be ground rules to ensure employees understand its purpose – and what it can’t be used for: “It’s not somewhere to make private phone calls or as an impromptu meeting space when other rooms are in use,” says Naughton.

The positioning of quiet rooms within the office building is another major consideration with many companies opting to put them in visible, easily accessible locations rather than hidden away in basements. In JLL’s new Manchester office, for example, the quiet space was intentionally located in an area with plenty of natural light.

“Companies want to show they’re serious about promoting wellbeing and equally they want these spaces to be used so putting them in prominent locations sends a strong message,” says Naughton.

He believes that more companies will be installing these quiet spaces as the focus on wellbeing remains a top priority to attract and retain employees.

“They’re not an expensive addition to modern offices and when they’re done well, they can add value in creating workplaces that employees feel are supporting their needs,” Naughton concludes. 

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