Mary Ann Lievois
A growing number of companies are making a commitment to enhance employee performance by implementing health and wellness programs. Many leaders, however, overlook the value of thoughtfully designed workplaces as a tool to inspire, motivate and retain employees.
Conventional workplace health and wellness programs are terrific, but tend to be disproportionally utilized by those already making healthy lifestyle choices, whereas design choices impact everyone. Great design and thoughtful products can elevate moods, promote healthy work habits, reduce stress, eliminate physical strain and muscle pain, and inspire creativity and professional development.
This translates to a reduction in sick days, greater productivity and performance, and ultimately business growth. Designing and furnishing workplaces is more than just choosing the right desk or chair based on price and aesthetics. Leaders that recognize the need to support the physical and emotional needs of their employees through design have a significant advantage in the marketplace when attracting and retaining talent.
Based upon our experiences counseling clients about designing their spaces for wellness and functionality, here are some tips for assessing your environment:
Offer a spectrum of spaces
The well-designed office features an appropriate mix of both private and collaborative environments, producing a range of spaces that nurture and stimulate socially. Although the convenience of modern technology allows for mobility within the office, you can accomplish so much at a personal computer that it may actually create less need to step away and take a break.
Open work areas give employees reasons to get up and interact with co-workers. This promotes a healthier state of both mind and body, while boosting overall productivity.
In lieu of isolated conference rooms, make spaces available for relaxed and public meetings. Consider setting aside a quiet space or a meditation room to provide employees with the chance to relax and “unplug” when stress begins to affect their health and/or performance.
Make comfort count
Ergonomics are essential, and comfort matters. When it comes to furnishings, making the upfront investment in high-quality, comfortable furniture will save you money in the long run. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, musculoskeletal diseases, including back pain, arthritis, bodily injuries and osteoporosis are reportedly plaguing Americans more than any other health condition.
To avoid these health issues, we work with clients to provide tools for added comfort and flexibility such as keyboard trays, standing desks, task lights, docking stations and computer monitor arms.
Let there be light
Among the most important design priorities is lighting. Access to natural light in workspaces maximizes employee performance and their personal sense of control. People generally prefer to be surrounded by or have access to natural elements that provide variation and sensory stimulation throughout the day.
We encourage clients to emphasize daylight views with proper design layouts. For example, plan enclosed office spaces at the center of the office, allowing maximum use of natural light. Using low-height workstations and glass partitions also helps create a sense of openness with privacy.
Take time to educate employees about how to effectively use their space. You can provide the necessary tools, like ergonomic seating, but if you don’t both show and educate team members about the most ergonomically appropriate way to sit, those updates may be underutilized. •
Mary Ann Lievois is CEO of ISCG, a commercial interiors firm providing all elements necessary for creating inspired workplaces. The firm works with clients to provide furnishings and interior design, furniture installation and facilities planning services. ISCG was founded in 1976 and is based in Royal Oak, Mich. For more information, visit www.iscginc.com.