Studio Talks: How Can We Encourage Wellness Through Workplace Design?
At Studio Eagle, when considering the steps involved in designing a workspace, we find wellness to be an important topic of discussion that inspires our choices and drives our decisions. From planning opportunities for brainstorming and collaboration, the benefits of exercise, to understanding afternoon burnout or the need for momentary rest, there’s more to workplace strategy and design that meets the eye when thinking about workplace wellness.
We sat down with Mark Lo Bue Workplace Strategy Director, and Meera Bahukutumbi Senior Interior Designer to understand further the role of workplace wellness areas in the design of our office environments.
STUDIO EAGLE: Tell us a bit about workplace wellness areas. How would you define a workplace wellness space and what would an area such as this look like?
Meera: I understand workplace wellness to be the amenities we give our employees – specifically the spaces we create to encourage relaxation. Whether through lounge areas, or opportunities where an employee can simply take a breather, I believe the larger goal with workplace wellness areas is to encourage opportunities for rest. I’ve seen the size of these spaces vary from the simple inclusion of a comfortable chair and soft lighting, to a larger space or retreat that can bring stress relief. When designing, there’s also that sensitivity about location to ensure the privacy intended is there.
Mark: For me, workplace wellness areas are spaces where employees can go outside of their personal working areas to support their social, emotional, and mental well-being throughout the work day. From heads down focus work, to open collaborative activities, I believe these spaces are a balance between private and social activity. With office designs opting for smaller workstations, and in certain situations increased transparency, we’re finding people less inclined to have private conversations within their designated working space. The flexibility to move to a different location that is supportive of this activity can really help productivity levels.
What we’ve been creating with our projects here at Studio Eagle, is the implementation of designated wellness areas for multiple uses. I’ve found the assumption is that a workplace wellness area is solely for return-to-work mothers to provide them the comfort and support they may need. It’s important to note workplace wellness areas can be designed to support multiple audiences. Whether through the creation of prayer spaces, to areas for employees that aren’t feeling momentarily well, I believe it’s really this opportunity for a refuge as Meera had touched on earlier.
STUDIO EAGLE: It’s fair to say at times the workplace can be stressful place. What benefits have you found employees experience from the integration of workplace wellness spaces into their office environment?
Mark: In just recently speaking with one of our clients where we have incorporated wellness areas into their space, we understand these areas are frequented on a daily basis and acting as an optimal resource for their employees. It’s a gratifying experience to hear their people are pleased with the integration of a workplace wellness space into their daily environment.
Meera: With my most recent work, a gaming area or fitness area have been very well received and welcomed. I’ve designed spaces where people can take a break, relax, go play a game of foosball and the feedback that office morale is up is great to hear. Perhaps it’s really a conversation in culture we’re having now. I think work culture in general continues to drive quite a bit of the decision making today. In terms of attracting talent I also think the consideration of workplace wellness areas are important. Allowing for “well” features in an office space I believe is crucial to the next generation of employees.
STUDIO EAGLE: We understand we are continuing to see a shift towards office design that ultimately can help improve the working lives of people. Reflecting on your efforts in workplace design, would you say wellness areas in the workplace are playing an integral role in this shift? If so, how do you see areas such as this evolving in the future?
Meera: Workplace wellness spaces are definitely making a difference in our work. I just visited a client who recently moved into their new office space and their people just love these kinds of spaces! It’s the flexibility of the space, the light – and when I ask, it’s not unfamiliar to hear people say, “what’s not to like?”. Perhaps what’s becoming is this feeling that as employees we are working, but with spaces such as this we don’t feel like we are working.
Mark: As we move forward in workplace design, I think we will keep coming back to this balance of wellness, amenity, and work – and workplace wellness areas are helping us accomplish this. Each new advancement in the workplace raises the question, “how can we keep this balance in our physical environment?”. I believe working commercial spaces and the relationship between personal needs will always be ever evolving. It’s an exciting time for workplace design to embrace the change and create what’s needed next.