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 that lends itself into becoming positively contagious, amplifying the performance of individuals, teams, and even, the entire enterprise.
The Steelcase team’s research synthesis identified six dimensions of wellbeing that can be impacted by the physical environment’s design, by creating an “interconnected workplace” that 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 these key dimensions of worker wellbeing identified by the company’s researchers.
Optimism: Fostering creativity and innovation
Optimistic employees tend be more productive. They influence a wide range of behaviour 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 standardisation and rigidity.
Design considerations would include: Allowing choice and control over where and they work; creating spaces that allow personalisation and individual customisation, instead of tightly enforced workplace standards; offering settings and affordances that help employees feel supported in their work; and design for transparency, so people can see and be seen, and build trust.
Mindfulness: Keep them engaged
Mindfulness means balancing the intense pace of life while being fully present in the moment. Today, technology presents many opportunities for multitasking, allowing people to be physically present in a meeting, for example, but mentally lost in an email. Workers need physical spaces that help them manage the cognitive overload of their daily lives and be fully present in the moment.
Design considerations would include: Creating spaces that help people connect with others one-on-one and eye-to-eye, and not just through their technological devices; allowing workers areas to control their sensory stimulation and choose if they want to amp it up or down; offering places that are calming, through materials, textures, colors, lighting and views; and fabricating areas where people can connect with others without distractions or interference.
Authenticity: Being themselves
Workers need spaces where they can feel a part of the organisation’s culture, while also feeling encouraged to express their own ideas and values. Leaders set standards and a tone of authenticity, while customisable work environments and social settings can reinforce the message.
Design considerations would include: creating spaces that help people feel comfortable to express themselves and share their ideas; incorporating informal, non-constricting environments with a home-like feel; and designing areas that help people connect their personal values to the brand values.
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 organisation. Hence, mobility, alternative work strategies and telepresence across geographies must be intentionally crafted.
Design considerations would include: creating entrances that are welcoming with visible hosting for people who don’t work there routinely; providing ample and well-equipped spaces for mobile and resident workers to work individually or in teams; offering video-conferencing configurations that allow remote participants to see content in the room and on the walls, and to hear everyone equally; as well as crafting informal areas for socialisation, in person as well as virtually.
Meaning: Providing a sense of purpose
A sense of purpose helps build a resilient enterprise based on trust and collaboration. It infuses “yes power” throughout a company. Spaces that are intentionally designed to help people accomplish meaningful goals can make a tremendous difference in individual performance and overall organisational results.
Design considerations would include: spaces beyond the lobby that reinforce the brand, purpose, history and culture of the company; leveraging vertical real estate to make thinking and progress visible; using technology to display real-time information; and creating an ecosystem of spaces that give people choices and empower them to work productively alone or together.
Cultivating: Encouraging vitality
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 behaviours, creating a new spatial vibe that boosts people’s motivation and performance within a relatively short time.
Design considerations would include: areas that give people choices for controlling the level of sensory stimulation around them; providing easily adjustable furniture to fit a range of sizes, needs and preferences, and to promote movement throughout the day; including cafes with healthy food choices and displays; bringing nature in with daylight, views, ventilation, patios, etc; and supporting active, healthy lifestyles with centrally located stairways, outdoor walking paths, bicycle racks, etc.