How design strategies can influence wellbeing in the workplace
Whether you work with 10 people, 10,000 people or just yourself, paying attention to Mental Health at Work has never been more important. Being workplace creators who are people focused, we understand the importance a space holds in supporting a positive mental health for those occupying it.
Various studies have proven that the environment surrounding us can have a positive or negative impact on not only our performance but also our mindset. So in honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, we wanted to use this opportunity to share our knowledge and tips for creating a workplace that not only influences wellbeing at work, but also provides a more positive environment for everyone using it.
The WELL Standard has been introduced to the design and build industry to ensure peoples health and wellness lies at the centre of all designs. Companies are starting to acknowledge that there is becoming an increasingly blurred line between work/ life balance, so as designers it is our responsibility to ensure we help to create a workplace that is WELL Certified for everyone using it.
WELL is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, through various components.
Dthree Designer, Sean Fitzgerald, discusses the importance of some of these components and how he integrates these into his designs to influence wellbeing.
For me, encouraging a happier and healthier mindset plays not only a crucial part in designing spaces but also thinking about the impact these have on the people using them. Design strategies, such as bibliophilia support productivity and can help to relieve workplace stress and anxiety. Colour considerations and use of materials / fabrics can also contribute to creating a more relaxed and calming environment to help separate and distinguish a difference between working areas from particularly non-working areas, such as break out spaces. Essentially allowing people to switch off and unwind, again helping to reduce stress levels. Brand integration can also play a massive part in creating mindfulness by creating a sense of unity and inclusion amongst the teams, giving everyone a purpose and reminder of the collective goal.
Following the rise in promoting physical activity for many healthy benefits, WELL movement looks to discourage sedentary behaviours through environmental design strategies, programs and policies. Office design has evolved massively to today’s modern environments. Gone are the days of the dreaded office cubicles and sitting at your own desk day in and day out. In fact, office design has now acknowledged that one size does not fit all, with an increasing range of spaces that allow people to choose where and how they work creating a genuine choice between the energetic and busy open-plan areas to the calmer spaces that people need to focus or unwind. Not only is encouraging movement throughout the workplace a huge factor for promoting a healthier work environment but recent statistics have shown that an average of 61% of people prefer to work away from their desks throughout the day. Therefore creating a flexible working environment has never been more necessary. Offering clever and adaptable furniture solutions where employees can move around the space and collaborate easily with one another is so important in helping to achieve this as well as boosting wellness levels.
A combination of desk space, booths, meeting rooms and breakout spaces generally work really well for businesses. This gives people the chance work independently as well as collaboratively with their colleagues, all in one space. For example, booth seating works well for informal meetings or collaborative work, whereas high benches tend to be associated more with independent work and hot desking with a laptop.
Studies have shown that light exposure has an impact on people’s moods and can in fact reduce symptoms of depression when used correctly. Which is why integrating daylight and electric light to create lighting focused on health, visual acuity and comfort, can lead to a healthier and more productive environment. Understanding how a space is used is key to implementing lighting strategies that improve productivity and happiness at work. Designing spaces to receive as much natural light as possible is the best solution, but this is not always possible, therefore using solutions that replicate daylight vital.
In design it is evident that the impact of good quality air throughout the spaces we occupy is substantial to maximising productivity and well being benefits. When designing an office there is a fresh air allowance set which will dictate the number of people per space which we follow throughout all our designs to ensure we optimise productivity and performance levels. A lack of fresh air will quickly cause tiredness and a decrease in enthusiasm.The introduction of indoor plants is also known to improve air quality and reduce our toxin intake.
We are also coming across more offices with outdoor access, whether it is in the form of terraces, court yards or roof tops, it’s great to see companies looking to invest in their outside spaces for their staff to enjoy and get some fresh air throughout the day . Having a space where people can fully step away from their desks and the office helps to reset your mind for a more productivity rest of the day.
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