Wellbeing is a competitive advantage in today’s business world. To achieve it, workers need mental and physical health, nurtured by a supportive environment. The results can be a sense of wellbeing that easily becomes positively contagious, amplifying the performance of individuals, teams and the entire enterprise.
The Steelcase team’s research synthesis identified six dimensions of wellbeing that can be impacted by the design of the physical environment to create the “interconnected workplace,” which offers employees choice and control over where and how they work.
Combined in workplace design, the principles set by Steelcase, lay the groundwork for addressing the six key dimensions of worker wellbeing identified by Steelcase researchers.
1. Optimism: Fostering Creativity and Innovation
Optimistic employees tend be more productive employees in today’s economy. It influences a wide range of behaviours such as seeing the big picture, exploring ideas, being open to others, taking more risks, facing difficult tasks and being open to change. Workers need to feel a sense of individual influence and control over their environment, versus feeling quashed by standardization and rigidity
- Allow choice and control over where and how people work.
- Create spaces that allow personalization and individual customization, instead of tightly enforced workplace standards.
- Offer settings and affordances that help employees feel supported in their work.
- Design for transparency, so people can see and be seen, and build trust.
2. Mindfulness: Fully Engaged
Mindfulness means balancing the intense pace of life with being fully present in the moment. Today technology presents many opportunities for multitasking, which allows people to be physically present in a meeting, for example, but mentally lost in email. Workers need physical spaces that help them manage the cognitive overload of their daily lives and be fully present in the moment.
- Create spaces that help people connect with others one-on-one and eye-to-eye, and not just through their technology devices.
- Design areas that allow workers to control their sensory stimulation and choose if they want to amp it up or down.
- Offer places that are calming, through the materials, textures, colors, lighting and views.
- Create areas where people can connect with others without distractions or interference.
3. Authenticity: Really Yourself
Workers need spaces where they can feel a part of the organization’s culture, while feeling encouraged to express their own ideas and values. Leaders set standards and a tone of authenticity, while customizable work environments and social settings can reinforce the message.
- Create spaces that help people feel comfortable to express themselves and share their ideas.
- Incorporate informal, non-constricting environments with a home-like feel.
- Design areas that help people connect their personal values to the brand values.
4. Belonging: Connecting to Others
Numerous studies and experiments have led to the belief that humans are genetically wired to need one another, having close friends and positive interactions at work significantly increases engagement with the organization. Hence, mobility, alternative work strategies and telepresence across geographies must be intentionally crafted.
- Create entrances that are welcoming with visible hosting for people who don’t work there routinely.
- Provide ample and well-equipped spaces for mobile and resident workers to work individually or in teams.
- Offer videoconferencing configurations that allow remote participants to see content in the room and on the walls, and to hear everyone equally.
- Design informal areas for socialization, in person as well as virtually.
5. Meaning: A Sense of Purpose
A sense of purpose helps build a resilient enterprise based on trust and collaboration. It infuses “yes power” throughout an organization. Spaces that are intentionally designed to help people accomplish meaningful goals can make a tremendous difference in individual performance and overall organizational results.
- Include spaces beyond the lobby that reinforce the brand, purpose, history and culture of the company.
- Leverage vertical real estate to make thinking and progress visible.
- Use technology to display real-time information.
- Create an ecosystem of spaces that give people choices and empower them to work productively alone or together.
6. Cultivating vitality in the workplace
Taking different postures stimulates the mind, and healthy environments encourage people to move, eat well and exercise as healthy practices. How we experience a place affects our actions. Investments in the workplace can completely change employees’ attitudes and behaviors, creating a new spatial vibe that boosts people’s motivation and performance within a relatively short time.
- Design areas that give people choices for controlling the level of sensory stimulation around them.
- Provide easily adjustable furniture to fit a range of sizes, needs and preferences and to promote movement throughout the day.
- Include cafés with healthy food choices and displays.
- Bring nature in with daylight, views, ventilation, patios, etc.
- Support active, healthy lifestyles with centrally located stairways, outdoor walking paths, bicycle racks, etc.