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  • Architecting Wellness: Designing Workspaces that Promote Health

    The modern workplace is undergoing a transformation. Gone are the days of sterile cubicles and fluorescent lighting.

    Today’s forward-thinking companies are recognizing the crucial link between employee well-being and business success. This shift has given way to a new design philosophy: architecting wellness.

    This approach goes beyond aesthetics, focusing on creating workspaces that actively promote physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s about crafting environments that not only inspire productivity but also nurture a sense of community and well-being.

    Why is Architecting Wellness Important?

    A study done by the University of Wollongong and Sydney concluded that:

    ‘High-performance certified offices presented an interior design configuration that embraced the preferred way of working and a variety of spaces to support several work-related activities.’

    Let’s get into the benefits of incorporating wellness into workspace design. Here are some key points to consider:

    Increased Productivity and Performance

    Studies show that well-designed workspaces can significantly increase employee productivity, focus, and creativity.

    Natural light, proper ventilation,  comfortable office chairs and the whole office furniture can  contribute to a more comfortable and stimulating work environment..

    Reduced Stress and Improved Mental Health

    Poorly designed workplaces can exacerbate stress levels. Architecting wellness helps mitigate stress by incorporating calming elements like biophilic design (integrating nature), access to natural light, and dedicated relaxation areas. These features can significantly improve employee mental well-being.

    S.R. Kellert, one of the pioneers of biophilic designs, explains Biophilic design as:

    ‘A deliberate attempt to satisfy the need for contact with natural systems and processes in the contemporary built environment, and to improve people’s physical and mental health, productivity and well-being’.

    Enhanced Employee Retention and Morale

    A well-designed workspace sends a powerful message to employees – that their health and happiness are valued. This promotes a sense of loyalty and belonging, leading to higher employee retention and improved morale.

    Reduced Absenteeism and Healthcare Costs

    Studies have shown that healthier work environments lead to lower employee absenteeism due to illness or injury. This translates to reduced healthcare costs for companies and increased operational efficiency.

    Key Elements of a Well Work Space

    So, what does a wellness-focused workspace actually look like? Here are some key elements to consider:

    Ergonomics

    Invest in ergonomic furniture that promotes good posture and reduces musculoskeletal strain. Adjustable ergonomic chairs, desks, and monitor stands are essential for preventing aches and pains associated with prolonged sitting.

    As observed by Mihartescu on Ergonomics and Employee Performance,

    ‘So, ergonomics is a way to organise work so that tools are easy for employees to get to and the work environment is good for them. This leads to more work getting done.’

    Lighting

    Lighting plays a crucial role in our circadian rhythm and overall well-being.  Avoid harsh fluorescent lights and embrace natural light whenever possible.

    Task lighting and adjustable lighting systems allow employees to control the brightness and create an environment that suits their needs.

    Air Quality

    Poor air quality can lead to fatigue, headaches, and respiratory problems.  To keep the air clean and fresh, ensure proper ventilation and consider air purification systems.

    Temperature Control

    Maintaining a comfortable temperature is vital. Consider a system that allows for individual control or creates dedicated zones for different temperature preferences.

    Movement and Activity

    Sitting for extended periods can be detrimental to health.  To encourage movement throughout the workday, incorporate features like standing desks, walking paths, or on-site gyms.

    Noise Control

    Excessive noise can be a significant source of stress and distraction.  Utilize soundproofing materials, designated quiet zones, and noise-canceling headphones to create a more peaceful work environment.

    Nurturing Beyond Design

    While design plays a crucial role, true architecting of wellness goes beyond the physical space. It’s about nurturing a culture that prioritises employee well-being. Here are some additional strategies to consider:

    Wellness Programs

    Offer on-site or subsidised healthy lifestyle programs such as yoga classes, fitness sessions, or healthy eating workshops.

    For instance, a a case study based on CIPROMS, a mid-sized medical billing and coding company in Indianapolis that participated in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Healthy Worksite Program (NHWP), shows that-

    Their findings indicate that potential absenteeism cost savings might occur after the implementation of a workplace wellness program in a mid-sized employer.

    Flexible Work Arrangements

    Provide employees with the flexibility to work remotely or adjust their schedules when needed. This can help maintain a healthy work-life balance and reduce stress.

    Mental Health Awareness

    Promote mental health awareness by providing resources and training. Encourage open communication and create a safe space for employees to discuss mental health challenges.

    Final Thought

    Architecting wellness is not a trend but a smart and sustainable approach to workplace design. By prioritizing employee well-being, companies can create a thriving environment that fosters productivity, creativity, and a sense of community.

    As the saying goes, “Healthy employees are happy employees and happy employees are productive employees.” So, take the first step today and start architecting a workspace that promotes wellness for your entire team.

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