If there’s one inescapable theme that’s enveloped us all this year, it’s human health and wellbeing. Workplace wellness has fast shifted from the ranks of ‘social influencer’ and ‘celebrity chef’ fodder, to being critical for the very future of humanity.
And many a business is undergoing, or planning, an overhaul of their workspace to counter the fear that’s been imprinted on our psyches through the persistence of media during this time. Even prior to 2020, the uptake on designing for wellbeing had gained pace with plenty of case studies to support it.
Which leads to a definitive opportunity for forward-thinking business leaders:
The desirable workplace of the future is the one with a clearly evident investment into the health and wellbeing of its employees.
A workplace embracing a wellness-oriented culture is one that attracts top quality employees who become loyal advocates for your organisation—and they’re the employees who offer long term value to your business.
Although, it seems business leaders are stuck in thinking that wellness in the workplace is nothing more than providing sit-stand workstations, a bowl of fruit and a dining table for their team.
So what are the key considerations to creating a coveted ‘wellness workplace’—one that attracts and retains top quality employees?
1. Increase organisational value through a focus on social health
In May this year, we explored the critical role the physical office plays in combatting the sense of isolation and lack of community that comes with working from home.
We’ve seen a shifted focus from individual health to social health. Principally, we need to protect the psychological wellbeing of our employees—we all know how reduced mental wellness negatively impacts productivity, creativity and innovation.
To ensure strong working relationships and opportunities for social connection, we suggest:
- acoustic treatment to digital conference areas for optimal employee engagement
- breakout lounge areas for a more private way of working when people need it
- dining and entertaining areas to encourage socialisation
- integration of technology into meeting spaces to include remote workers
- giving employees opportunities to engage more privately by going beyond open plan
2. Biophilic design—the need for nature in the workplace has never been greater
Apart from the obvious visual benefits of bringing the outdoors into the workplace, the calming effects on physical and emotional health can’t be overlooked.
More nature inside your organisation also serves to temper the jarring effects of hard surfaces, while improving waning focus due to constant immersion in digital devices.
Elements to consider when incorporating biophilic design:
- space planning to ensure natural light reaches all work points
- seamless integration of gardens and natural elements
- increased focus on ventilation and air purification
- using natural materials such as timber and stone
- plenty of areas to display plants and encourage indoor plant growing projects
3. Enrich workday experiences through cultural acceptance and inclusion
Wellness is proximally linked to organisational culture, and cultural inclusion (or lack thereof) has astounding effects on the collective psyche of your business.
Providing a place of work which meets the needs and experiences of all employees considering gender, race, wealth, religion and ability helps your team relate to the office as more than just a hotch-potch of workstations and offices. These principles are rooted in ‘Omotenashi’, which we also talked about in August.
By placing people’s cultural needs first, commercial spaces become a rich environment of equality and opportunity. Also, your employees feel heard and more comfortable being their authentic selves—thus, diversity is amplified:
- use your kitchen and dining areas to host educational and/or culinary culture events
- assign areas for prayer, nursing mothers and indigenous representation
- build and adapt spaces mindfully to cater for all abilities
- involve your employees in the interior design process (our co-design process is highly specialised and loved by clients)
4. Preventative health practices for peace of mind
People returning to the workplace will have varying degrees of concern when it comes to protecting their health. It’s therefore important to balance seamless, hassle-free preventative processes without them being overtly invasive or clinical:
- install low maintenance, resilient surfaces and materials free of crevices and hard-to-clean areas
- consider anti-bacterial materials on high-touch surfaces such as countertops which don’t need ‘heavy duty’ cleaning with fume-inducing products such as bleach
- explore the idea of “healthy entries” to control the amount of foreign material entering the building
- incorporate UV cleanable surfaces
5. Responsive, adaptable spaces that encourage healthy habits
Workplace wellness isn’t fixed or linear. Your office’s response to the need for human wellbeing should flex and change to accommodate the nuances of your team and external influences:
- planning spaces so employees have to move from their seats
- design flexibility and future-proofing measures into the workplace design
- integrate technology seamlessly so it becomes an enabler rather than a dominator
- ensure your interior design team do the work at the start of any adaptations to wellness to establish good baseline measures that can be tracked after completion
Physical workplaces need to be re-envisioned as an important destination—it’s an opportunity to become a visible demonstration of the vision and culture of your business. Beyond 2020, we’ll see success measured by staff turnover, employee happiness and productivity instead of numbers of workstations, densities, or office sizes.
As a design team who have optimised spaces for human wellbeing over many years, we advise decision makers on the specifics of how they can smartly and efficiently incorporate innovative wellness elements into their refurbishment or new interior build.
If you’re looking to develop a clear-cut wellness vision and strategy, now is the time to start the process.
Call our Perth office on 9321 7955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org