Supporting Physical & Mental Wellness Through Workplace Design
Wellness in the workplace has been a major force in workplace design over the past few years. Many studies have shown that when people feel like their basic wellness needs are being supported, they’re happier, more productive, and more satisfied with their jobs. Companies embraced this and started trying to design spaces that would help their employees lead healthier lifestyles. But when the coronavirus pandemic overtook the world in 2020, wellness in the workplace became more important than ever before.
Supporting wellness in the workplace can be so much more than offering incentives for people to take the stairs instead of the elevator or setting up an on-site fitness center. Here are a few other ideas to help make your workplace a healthier place.
Improve Access to Natural Light
One of the most effective ways to support both physical and mental wellness is by making sure everyone has plenty of access to natural light. When you think about all the different types of cool features and fun perks a workplace can possibly have to offer, you might be surprised to hear that access to natural light is at the top of the list. According to the Harvard Business Review, respondents in a 2018 poll cited natural light as being the most desirable office perk, outranking things like on-site fitness rooms, child care centers, and cafeterias. But the reason for this is simple: it makes them feel good.
In this survey, 47% of respondents said that a lack of natural light in the workplace made them feel tired and 43% said the lack of light made them feel gloomy. Exposure to natural light helps regulate circadian rhythms so that people are able to sleep better, setting them up to come into work each day feeling rested, focused, and in a good mood. Another 2018 study showed that optimizing light in the workplace resulted in a 56% drop in reported drowsiness, a 51% drop in reports of eyestrain, and a 63% drop in reports of headaches.
Connect to Nature
Even though our lives are now driven by technology, people still need to feel connected to the world around them. When people feel a connection to nature, it helps to reduce stress and improve moods, both of which help give productivity a boost.
Maximizing natural light is a great way to allow for a connection to nature in the workplace, but it’s definitely not the only way. Including natural finishes like wood and stone, using natural colors like blue and green, including plants around the office, and creating outdoor cafe areas are all other great ways to include a little bit of nature into the design of an office. Research has also shown that even just looking at images of nature can have a calming effect on people, so displaying artwork of natural landscapes is another great idea.
Allow for Space
We understand the desire to use as much of your office space as possible. But it’s also important to remember that having too many people working together in one area can be stressful and overwhelming for people, particularly if they deal with anxiety or are sensitive to noise. Even for people who don’t have those types of issues, noise from neighboring coworkers can still be stressful and make it difficult to concentrate on their work.
Speaking of noise, excessive noise levels have become a common complaint with the growth of open plan offices. People want to feel connected to the environment around them, but since noise can be so stressful and distracting, simply putting on some headphones and turning up their music or installing white noise systems aren’t ideal solutions. Instead, other types of noise control measures can be installed around the office, such as acoustic ceiling tiles, wall panels, or spray-on cellulose insulation for open ceilings can be to keep the noise down to a manageable level.
An added benefit to allowing for distance in the workplace is that it’s one way to encourage people to get up and walk around throughout the day. When companies decide to make employee wellness a priority, they often want layouts that encourage movement. This can include creating several different types of spaces to work in, such as private rooms for solo work or one-on-one conversations, meeting areas for group collaboration, and relaxed lounge areas. Different tasks have different needs and having those available settings encourages people to get up from their desks and move around based on what they’re working on.
Another idea is to use wayfinding as a subtle way to encourage people to move around more. For example, wayfinding cues could be used to direct people toward the stairs instead of the elevator.
Need help creating a workplace that will support physical and mental wellness? Premier Construction & Design for help. Take a look through our portfolio and case studies to see some examples of our work. Contact us to get started.