We all know how much we cherish rest and a good night’s sleep, and how this impacts our mood, focus and interactions the following day. Poor sleep has the real potential to hinder an individual’s happiness, alongside their personal and professional development, which in turn can impact overall business activity.

There is a direct link between good sleep health, performance, and wellbeing in the workplace. The question we’d like to ask is – why isn’t sleeping and resting in the workplace yet widely addressed by workplace strategy?

The overlooked employee benefit

With conversations surrounding mental health and wellbeing in the workplace now commonplace, and claims that popular mindfulness apps offer no real benefits, organisations are considering tangible ways in which they can support employees within their place of work. As a result, we’re seeing the development of different wellness benefits with some employers now offering sports and fitness classes, discounts, and additional time off – but how might this be expanded?

Research has shown that there is a clear business case for the permittance of rest and downtime in the workplace. For employees like new parents, those with caring responsibilities, or simply individuals experiencing episodes of insomnia, rest throughout the day can make an instant difference to performance and wellbeing.

There is now a perfect opportunity for employers to weigh up the ways in which they can ensure a well-rested workforce through both wellbeing and benefits packages, as well as office design and layout. A good starting point is an internal analysis of culture and operations which can flag an ‘always-on’ culture which is often counter-productive, and a root cause of stress for many employees. Combatting this is an essential first step in providing a workplace that can truly support wellbeing and should be a priority for employers seeking to facilitate a well-rested workforce.

What does the ‘rest-friendly’ workplace look like?

Whilst there’s no ‘blueprint’ as such to providing a workplace that supports employee health and wellbeing, many of the design and layout considerations will vary depending on the sector of an organisation and the size of the office space in question. Despite this, there are a number of design elements that can be introduced to office spaces of all different sizes, layouts, and specifications.

Providing soft furnishings, along with dimmable and customisable lighting, is a great way to encourage a restfulness ambiance. Warm-toned accent lighting can be used to introduce a sense of ‘home’ within the workplace, helping to reduce stress for end-users. Acoustics are also a crucial consideration, and including materials and furniture which minimises excess noise and reverberation can help to reduce the disturbances associated with the hustle and bustle of main working areas.

The Sleep Foundation also recognises that colour choices can help in the promotion of sleep and rest. Blues, greens, and whites are noted for the ability to induce feelings of calm and restfulness, so could be particularly ideal for use in spaces intended for relaxation. Aside from sectioning off parts of the pre-existing space to be dedicated ‘rest zones’, sleeping pods or rooms designed for moments of calm could also be introduced throughout a space to maximise this sense of separation.

Technology’s role in encouraging the rest-friendly workplace is also two-fold. On the one hand, automated reminders that encourage employees to take regular breaks can be a particularly useful way of ensuring that people incorporate some downtime through their day. On the other, designated ‘tech-free’ zones offer a space to take time away from screens and properly connect, socialise, and relax whilst at work. And rest doesn’t have to be sedentary. Encouragement to take active breaks, such as short walks and fresh air, can provide a necessary reset between tasks or meetings.

Communication is key

Organisations should be mindful of how they communicate the intended purpose and function of spaces intended to promote rest at work. Even from the initial design and planning stage, if employers communicate why spaces designed for rest are being introduced in their offices in the first place, and provide clear guidance on how they can be used to their full advantage, it will help banish the notion that they are to compensate for excessive working hours. This ensures such spaces are leveraged to their full potential by end-users, and have maximum positive impact on employees.

Overall, the benefits of providing areas dedicated to sleep and rest in the workplace are manifold. But changes don’t have to be costly or lengthy, and with effective communication even small changes in lighting or colour palette can benefit both the organisation and its people. From a more relaxed and rejuvenated workforce, to providing a remedy for employees with unconventional sleeping patterns, a workplace that supports rest will be a successful one.

Leeson Medhurst
Leeson Medhurst
Head of Workplace Strategy at Peldon Rose | + posts

Peldon Rose is London’s leading office design and build expert. Its team of workplace strategists and specialists create workplaces that deliver business value, while providing exceptional everyday experiences for the people who use them. Through a bespoke end-to-end service, Peldon Rose rapidly gains an understanding of business needs, and then designs and delivers industry-leading solutions. Throughout the process, the team provide a consistently uplifting experience for clients and their people.