In recent years, workplace design has centered on creating hip, collaborative spaces with more open offices and flexible space to promote innovation and evolution within the companies that operate there. But the next wave of workplace design is promoting something arguably even more important: employee wellness.
One of the ways designers are facilitating healthier environments in corporate office space is through the subtle but thoughtful use of active design, where trash cans are built in to places that require employees to walk, or the eating area is purposefully designed with a staircase to access it. Other wellness options may be more obvious, such as incorporating more natural light into a space, having windows that open, or a gym.
Here are five other ways that designers are changing office spaces to make room for important wellness-focused amenities:
- Standing desks: “Sitting is the new smoking” and causes many long-term health related problems. In fact, according to a recent study by Ergotron, 67 percent of Americans hate sitting at work and 85 percent take breaks from sitting for symptom relief. Furthermore, 96 percent would be willing to stand more to improve their health or life expectancy. Adding standing and conference furniture throughout an office gives people the option to stand while continuing to work.
- Outdoor space: Even in colder climates, it’s important to encourage employees to get some fresh air and go for a walk. In many suburban locations, corporate office parks are looking for ways to establish walking paths, which can be great for employees but also a means to brand or connect several buildings on a campus. Walking paths not only encourage exercise, but provide new venues to hold group brainstorms. Another option is incorporating patio space adjacent to ground-floor conference rooms, so that meetings can spill outside, while fostering collaboration, creativity and a more exciting office culture.
- Showers: While gyms are a highly sought-after amenity, showers are even more important, especially in urban locations where employees may be likely to ride their bikes to work. Of course, having a place to safely store a bike is also key.
- Wellness/Mother’s rooms: A special room for mothers to breast feed is not only a considerate amenity that may encourage a woman to return to work, but one that is more sanitary and comfortable than the typical backup option of pumping in bathrooms. In some states such as Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, Tennessee, and more, providing a proper place for women to breastfeed is becoming a requirement or strongly encouraged as a way to promote wellness not just for moms, but for their babies. Wellness rooms offer staff time and space to escape from the main office.
- Green building materials: Transparency about the chemicals that comprise building materials takes wellness a step further. This site, Transparency, shows people what building products are made of and whether or not they are bad for humans, animals and the environment as a whole. Clients are then informed of alternatives so they can make conscious decisions for the future wellness of their workplace. This keeps wellness front of mind for people and their families who come to work every day in a healthy and safe environment.
As people become more concerned with their own wellness, it makes sense that the place people spend the majority of their day adjusts to promote a healthy lifestyle. Architects and designers are listening; they’re incorporating thoughtful amenities into the future workplace design so that we can all be healthier. Ultimately, a healthier workplace is happier and more productive which benefits both employees and employers.
The story was originally published in Work Design Magazine.
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