The office is competing with the home. Working from home (WFH) is now a part of the business lexicon and looks set to stay. But businesses still need offices; we all need to meet face to face sometimes. For younger staff in particular, the physical workplace is often where they receive mentoring, training and feel most part of an organisation.

But businesses have to recognise that offices are now in competition with the home and, for many, the home is winning. For wellbeing experts and professionals, WFH culture is a challenge, but there are ways to improve offices and workplaces. Here are five of my key targets for improvement.

Breath in the air

Let’s start with a fundamental. Air quality is key. Employee productivity has been shown to be significantly higher with good air quality and there are long term health benefits to having good air.

Each year, roughly €100 billion is lost in the EU alone due to decreased productivity and increased health incidents from poor air quality. These issues range from milder effects such as poor focus as a result of CO2 build up in offices to the impact of fine dust particulates which can harm the lungs and immune system. At its worst, poor air quality can increase cancer risks from elevated formaldehyde and benzene levels in newly furnished units.

Ventilation is key – by keeping oxygen levels close to what we can obtain while outdoors, studies have demonstrated office workers can work up to 60% faster and with 12% greater accuracy than those in improperly ventilated spaces.

Shine a light

Daylight plays an important role in all of our lives. It controls our circadian rhythm or internal body clock. So it’s no surprise that access to sunlight has been shown to improve mood and make people happier and more productive.

Office workers tend to spend most of their daylight hours within the office, so access to natural light within office buildings is a really important consideration and can have a major impact on employees’ wellbeing.

Simple things such as ensuring desks are near to windows can really help. Staff should be encouraged to get up, walk around and go outside.  If you’re lucky enough to be involved in the early stages of design for your office space, ensure that access to natural light for all workers is prioritised as standard.

Walk the line

Walking is good for health, posture and overall wellbeing. As a species, we don’t walk nearly enough and this can lead to a range of health issues from poor posture and back pain to an overall lack of fitness.

When choosing your offices it’s vital, therefore, to consider their walkability. We actually don’t want people chained to their desks – not even proverbially. A simple way to check this is using the Walkscore website (, which will tell you how well your premises fares from a walking point of view.

Miss you

Believe it or not, some people are missing their managers. Because while we’ve all had a bad manager, a good manager can really aid a person’s career and development.

Managers provide a conduit between the leaders of a business and those on the lower rungs. This is essentially the big problem with WFH. While those of us who are more advanced and secure in our careers may enjoy the comforts of home, younger workers and those new to a company may both want and need a greater level of face-time.

Too much, too young

There is a stark split across the ages when it comes to WFH. Older workers who tend to live in nicer and larger homes and are therefore far more in favour of WFH than younger people who often live in dwellings which are less suited to work. 

But across the age spectrum, workplace professionals should be concerned about the effects of permanent WFH. According to recent research, employees who always WFH have a higher intention to leave their job than employees who never work from home.

That’s not to say that working from home in itself is going to lead to people leaving. In fact the option to work from home correlates, research shows, with job satisfaction. It’s more about those who really never venture into the office at all. Once employees start to become estranged from their colleagues and their company through continued absence, that’s when they might feel less and less invested in the business that employs them.

Especially when we look at the experience of younger employees, who would benefit the most from face to face interaction and in person training. For these people, the lack of in person contact can be most severely detrimental to their working lives.

So if you’d like to keep hold of your valued staff, especially newer ones, it makes sense to encourage them into the office at least part of the time, and to have people there to train and mentor them when they do.

Let’s get together

Sociability is surely one big advantage the workplace has over the home for everyone. WFH can be a lonely experience whereas offices are social and can, on a good day, be a lot of fun.

This is where you can put in place measures that will encourage those more senior members of the team who might otherwise stay in their relatively large and more comfortable homes.

By making the workplace a truly enjoyable place to socialise, you can overcome some of that temptation to stay in the comfort zone of WFH. Workplaces need to evolve and the best way for this to happen is for workplace professionals to guide their transition using the growing amount of data and knowledge we have at our disposal. WFH is here to stay, but it’s not the answer to all our working woes.

Sarah Coughlan of Evora Global
Sarah Coughlan
Head of social wellbeing at Evora Global | + posts

Sarah Coughlan is head of social wellbeing at sustainability, technology and services company Evora Global. In collaboration with building certification platform Fitwel, Sarah's team at Evora has developed the first social wellbeing standards for buildings, Certified Metrics (CM). CM measures factors such as air quality, access to daylight, walking opportunities and how a building interacts with its surrounding environment.