Workplace Wellness Office Design Strategies — part II

Workplace Wellness Office
Design Strategies
— part II

 

workplace and workspace wellness rooms and spaces
Photo: Kelly Robinson + Wundr Studio

Why physical activity and exposure to nature is key for employee happiness

As you probably already know from part one of our series on designing for employee health, office design can have a significant impact on your employee’s wellbeing and productivity. Whether you’re moving into a new office or constructing your first corporate campus, your entire team should be thinking about how your employees will inhabit every space— and, in turn, the impact that these spaces will have on their mental and physical health.

In collaboration with our partner Two Furnish, we came up with four approaches we’ve deployed to help our clients design locations that help employees stay fit while they’re at work.

Think Critically About Services Placement

staircase in the midddle of office floorplanFor example, one of our tech clients in Los Angeles placed a staircase in the middle of the floorplan instead of on the perimeter. When staircases are accessible and centrally located, employees are more likely to take the stairs instead of an elevator.

As you work with an architect to design the floor plan of your new office, pause to think about how employees will travel through the space. How can you organize services (such as bathrooms, kitchens, and elevators) in a way that will encourage employees to move?

Take Advantage Of The Outdoors

Walking meetings are all the rage today— they help employees gain more energy and reap all the benefits of increased physical activity, like lower healthcare costs and a reduced number of sick days.

incorporating nature in workplace design
Photo: Microsoft

Creating outdoor spaces like gardens, a track, or hiking trails will give your employees a big push to take their meetings outdoors when the weather permits. Offering umbrellas that anyone can take when they head out for a walk is another way to encourage them to think of the outdoors as another workspace.

Microsoft’s campus in Seattle, which is pedestrian friendly includes walking paths just for recreation, does an excellent job of creating space for outdoor work and leisure. Nearby forest trails provide additional options for employees wanting to get away from their desks and enjoy some fresh air.

In 2017, the technology company created a treehouse outfitted with power outlets and wifi for use as a meeting space or outdoor workstation. Their intention was to foster a greater connection between their employees and the outdoors, which has been shown to boost creativity and wellbeing.

If building your own outdoor paradise isn’t in the budget, consider looking for an office adjacent to a public park, beach, or recreation site. If you’re seeking space in the financial district where outdoor space may be limited, consider a building with a public open space such as a rooftop garden.

Incorporate Ergonomic Furniture

70% of all full-time workers in the U.S. hate sitting, but they’re often stuck glued to their task chairs day in and day out. Long periods at a desk combined with poor posture can also lead to back pain, which can contribute to increased rates of absenteeism.

sit to stand desks
Photo: Two Furnish + Matthew Millman Photography

Offer your staff a variety of ways they can work outside of the standard office chair. This could be sit-to-stand desks, modular furniture, foam mats to make standing more comfortable, configurable tables with casters, or yoga balls. By giving employees the gift of choice, they’ll be encouraged to move into whatever position is most comfortable for them throughout the day.

“Nearly 85% of the offices we’re actively engaged on consider height adjustable resident desks,” said Brian Buhl, Partner at Two Furnish. “It goes beyond being fad; it’s a tool amongst the extensive list of amenities and incentives that companies are advocating for. These desks in addition to a diverse mix of ancillary vignettes inspire a degree of user-based autonomy leaving it up employees to determine which posture and environment is seemingly most productive to work in on-demand.”

Create Rooms / Spaces Dedicated to Wellness

Finally, give employees space they can use to move their body and relax their mind. The workout they get from a game of ping pong, a brief yoga session, or a workout in an on-site gym can provide quick stress relief.

health, physical, relieve stress workspaces
Photos: Two Furnish + Matthew Millman Photography

And don’t be afraid to think outside the box: not all fitness is physical. Two Furnish worked with Kelly Robinson who co-designed medication pods with Headspace, creating a place where employees could step away for a moment of calm as our main featured photo. The “Lookout” also serves as a communal space adjacent to a large café and auditorium integrating a multipurpose room for a few minutes of repose.

Photo: Kelly Robinson + Wundr Studio

These are just a few of the many ways you can use design to help your employees feel better both during their time at the office and when they get home at the end of the day. When you’re ready to think about how your office space contributes to employee health, we’re here to help. Reach out to us for a free consultation.

 

Special thanks to our contributor: Brian Buhl, Partner at Two Furnish


JOANY makes use of potted plants in a creative huddle space with natural light.

Workplace Wellness Office Design Strategies - part I

Workplace Wellness
Office Design Strategies - part I

JOANY makes use of potted plants in a creative huddle space with natural light.
Two Furnish's client, JOANY, makes use of potted plants in a creative spherical garden space. Designer: Kelly Robinson and Photographer: Wundr Studio

 

Keep your employees healthy and productive with these four approaches

As the cost of healthcare expenses rises and employers grow more concerned with absenteeism, designing for workplace wellness has become a necessity for companies. Providing employees with opportunities to exercise, such as walking paths and standing desks, have become standard client requests.

But helping employees with their mental health is a trickier proposition. We know 40% of U.S. workers experience office stress, but the causes are as diverse as the people experiencing it.

Typically, improving workplace mental health has been the task of HR departments and employee assistance programs. But an increasing number of companies, including Uber and Amazon, are turning to design to provide employees with stress relief. Here are 4 approaches you can use on your next project to create spaces that foster productivity and relaxation.

Incorporate Natural Light

Sunlight was once viewed as the enemy of indoor spaces, as it penetrates through glass, heating up rooms and disrupting climate-controlled environments. But a lack of exposure to natural light at work has been shown to contribute to poor sleep and depressive symptoms — something no employer wants their workforce to experience.

Client: JOANY, Designer: Kelly Robinson, Photographer: Terrence Williams

Having natural light plus a keen awareness of materials which reflect and absorb is essential. “Having exposure to natural elements impacts your staff. Being inside all day can be uninspiring or impact your mental health – if it’s inevitable, which for many of us it is, employers have the option to adopt philosophies such as biophilic design or WELL that are proven to positively impact productivity,” said Brian Buhl, partner at San Francisco-based furniture dealer Two Furnish.

Uber Technologies’ new office in Mission Bay sought to foster connections between employees and the great outdoors. By placing all services such as elevators and restrooms at the building’s core, every employee can have a workstation within 20--30 feet of a window.

If you can’t give every employee a bit of natural light at their desk, consider placing gathering spaces around the building’s shell. They can be used for meetings, one-on-ones, or space for employees to have a moment of respite while enjoying a little bit of light and a novel view.

Furthermore, simply spending time outside has been shown to improve happiness and even give our memory a boost. Think outside the office when you design meeting rooms and gathering places. If you make spaces for outdoor interactions available, people will use them — sometimes rain or shine.

 

Bring the Outside In With Biophilic Design

Spherical garden designed by Kelly Robinson for TwoFurnish's client, JOANY

What’s the next best thing to providing space for employees to experience the great outdoors firsthand? Bringing the outside in using features like living walls in common spaces.

The biophilic design movement, which promotes exposure to natural environments through the use of indoor plants and patterns found in nature, is taking off in the tech community. One point/element of the movement is the fact that homo sapiens have spent most of their history outdoors, not in sealed office buildings. Adherents assert that incorporating these elements into workspaces will improve productivity and employee well being.

One example of this approach is Amazon’s new greenhouse located in downtown Seattle. With more than 400 species of plant life, The Spheres provide employees with a variety of unique spaces to work or unwind, including many spots that mimic natural environments like bird nests.

Most companies aren’t able to build their own private rainforest, but there are small ways to bring nature to your client’s employees. A living wall or adding space for potted plants can help decrease stress and reduce the amount of sick days.

 

Add Colors and Artwork

The Bridge Group LLC, San Francisco, commercial project construction management, real estate services, facilities consulting, owner’s representativeIf real plants aren’t an option, what about adding pops of color and art pieces that reflect the outside world?

Art can have a positive impact on our emotions and our productivity— one study found
employees working in spaces enriched with color, art, plants, or other design elements
were 17% more productive than employees working in bare, undecorated environments.

Our recent project for a tech company in Los Angeles took studies like these into consideration.
We facilitated the creation of a mural and a hanging art piece that spans multiple floors,
which adds visual interest to employee’s days every time they walk past.

Create Private Spaces

The Bridge Group LLC, San Francisco, commercial project construction management, real estate services, facilities consulting, owner’s representative

As many companies shift towards adopting open office layouts, spaces for employees to speak privately or enjoy a respite moment to themselves are becoming more important.

Consider adding phone booths in open office environments to provide privacy for a phone call. San Francisco coworking space, RocketSpace achieved this with The Bridge Group in collaboration with the design team.

Although design isn’t a panacea for depression, there are many different approaches designers can take to help workers reduce office stress. They can be as simple as adding plants to a break area, or building an outdoor patio— the benefits for an employee’s state of mind makes it worthwhile.

What design approaches does your office use to help employees to maintain with workspace wellbeing? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

 

Special thanks to our blog contributor: Brian Buhl, Two Furnish