Workplace wellbeing is a serious bottom-line issue. Traditionally, office design focused on employee productivity, but now the conversation is expanding to include a more holistic, person-centered perspective.
Business leaders need to look for ways to keep their people as healthy as possible, especially in the post-COVID world. They need to take an interest in the physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing of their employees.
Here at Egyptian Workspace Partners, we design spaces that address all three aspects of workplace wellbeing to enhance the performance of people, teams and organizations.
In this article, we'll help you understand the benefits of workplace wellbeing, and how you can create a workplace that promotes the physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing of your employees.
7 Ways to promote workplace wellbeing
1. Provide an Ecosystem of Spaces
The days of spending eight hours at a designated desk are over. Of course, the desk is still an integral part of the workday, but it’s no longer the only place employees can work.
Now, organizations understand the importance of incorporating an ecosystem of interrelated zones into their office design. They realize people at work need to focus, collaborate, rejuvenate, socialize and learn throughout the day, and no single space can support all these needs.
Employees with access to a broad ecosystem of spaces have more control over how and where they want to work. They can balance collaboration with time to focus, and they’ll be highly engaged because they can choose from a range of spaces to support the work they’re doing.
The ability to choose where to work offers mental and psychological advantages that aid in improved workplace wellbeing. It also promotes physical activity, and gives people the opportunity to think better and generate new ideas.
Companies should build an ecosystem of spaces with options so people can choose where and how to work. They also need to:
- Provide seamless creativity between spaces to support the exchange of information and experiences from tools-to-tools and space-to-space
- Create spaces that allow for personalization instead of strictly enforced workplace standards
- Offer a variety of settings to help employees feel supported in their work
- Incorporate separate spaces or zones for individual, team and organizational needs
2. Encourage People to Stay Active
Researchers say sitting is the new smoking, but it’s not sitting that’s hurting you. It’s how you’re sitting that makes a difference. Sitting for long periods with little movement and limited breaks for standing or walking can impact workplace wellbeing and impact productivity.
To stay healthy, people need a balance between sitting, standing and walking every single day. Standing for just one hour each day can help workers focus, burn extra calories and either maintain or renew their energy levels.
Fortunately, there are a wide range of solutions that encourage people to sit, stand and move while supporting the technologies they use. Some of the most popular solutions include height-adjustable workstations and office seating that encourages active sitting.
Also known as sit-stand desks, height-adjustable workstations provide benefits like improved overall health, better concentration and increased productivity. They also reduce sedentary behavior by 17 percent, according to the Stand Up to Work study from Steelcase.
From lounge seating to office task chairs, people also need seating that encourages all-day movement. By providing chairs that support employees properly, they can move in a range of healthy postures and stay fully engaged and focused on their work.
Workspaces that encourage people to get up, move and stay active should be intentionally designed. To achieve this, companies should:
- Provide easily adjustable furniture to fit a range of sizes, needs and preferences to promote movement throughout the day
- Support active, healthy lifestyles with stairways, outdoor walking paths, fitness centers and bike racks
3. Build Spaces that Stimulate Creativity
As work becomes more challenging, the performance of people is highly dependent on the quality of their physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing. To be successful, employees at every level and in every role should be able to generate creative ideas and solve problems in unique ways.
For that reason, creativity can no longer be viewed as purely an artistic pursuit. Instead, creativity should be viewed as a way of thinking and a set of new behaviors that can apply to a broad range of issues, leading to new ways of working.
Companies need more space for groups and individuals to be creative. They need to realize creativity is a fluid process and build work environments that not only stimulate creativity but give people the freedom to express themselves authentically.
Organizations should intentionally design spaces that support the needs of teams and individuals as they move through the different stages of the creative process and:
- Build a welcoming environment with authentic design elements, artifacts and materials that inspire creativity
- Design for physical and emotional comfort through posture options and comfortable proximity to other people and objects
- Create spaces that encourage people to engage with integrated technology and offer interactive ways to form ideas together
- Provide collaboration tools, like large-scale computing devices, so everyone can contribute to and interact with content
4. Bring Nature Indoors
The outdoors has a powerful hold on our physical, emotional and cognitive wellbeing. As new ways of working continue to require more creativity and connection, organizations are turning to biophilic design.
Biophilic design is the idea that human beings have an innate desire to connect and bond with the nature. It focuses on bringing the outdoors inside and helps people feel like they’re working in a natural environment where they can explore, adapt and be creative.
From natural materials to organic patterns, the elements of biophilic design increase oxygen levels, reduce stress and improve concentration levels. Most importantly, it also helps employees re-energize, focus and be more productive.
Business leaders can bring nature into the work by embracing biophilic design and opting for glass walls or outside views. They can also:
- Select materials inspired by nature, such as wood that embraces natural imperfections or stone that mimics natural landscapes
- Choose fabrics with organic patterns, calming colors or natural textiles that reflect nature’s soothing properties
- Incorporate lush greenery or living plant walls
5. Let There Be Light
Natural light can positively impact our health and helps people feel happier and more content. Happier employees are more creative, more productive, better problem-solvers and interact with others more effectively.
Everyone should have access to natural light, which can be maximized through an intentionally designed office floor plan. One of the easiest ways to make the most of natural light is to create an open work environment that incorporates modular glass walls.
Glass walls let natural light travel throughout your office and create a physical barrier between people. Modular walls also provide benefits such as taking up less space than traditional drywall and making it easy to reconfigure your layout.
To further illustrate the benefits of glass walls in the workplace, let's look at the two layouts pictured above. Both layouts are 25,000 square feet, but they make use of the space and natural light in different ways.
The first layout makes minimal use of glass walls and focuses on private offices over natural light. It has 16 private offices and 12 collaborative workspaces, and supports 127 employees with individual workstations.
The second layout is intentionally designed to incorporate glass walls and increase the amount of natural light within the office. Its 15 private offices are used as spaces for people to focus, and it offers 44 collaborative workspaces and supports 152 workers.
While utilizing as much natural light as possible is recommended, companies can also adopt a lighting strategy for distinct types of work and:
- Position offices and key work areas where natural light is critical close to windows
- Install glass wall partitions to increase the amount of natural light your office receives
- Situate furniture, storage cabinets and other large objects, so they’re unable to block external light sources
7. Create a Workplace for Tomorrow with Technology
Despite the role technology plays in the modern office, work is more complex than ever before. Today, companies need to become smarter, more connected and learn how to leverage technology to help employees work, think and feel better.
Companies that want to create a stress-free, productive workplace should embed technology into their physical environment. They can also use embedded technology to understand the kinds of spaces people love to work in.
This information can help organizations better understand which rooms are always busy and which rooms no one seems to like. It can also result in productive, engaged employees who feel taken care of and in control of their surroundings.
To integrate technology into the workplace, business leaders should provide smart, connected workspaces and:
- Create welcoming entrances with visible hosting for people who don’t work there routinely
- Provide well-equipped spaces for mobile and resident workers to work individually or with others
- Offer videoconferencing solutions that allow remote participants to see content in the room and to hear everyone equally
- Design informal areas for in-person and virtual socialization
- Use technology to display real-time information
What are the Benefits of promoting workplace wellbeing?
In today’s business world, workplace wellbeing may be a competitive advantage, but it’s about more than on-site fitness centers or healthy food choices. It’s about creating a culture that prioritizes the physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing of its people.
To achieve workplace wellbeing, employees need mental and physical health support, nurtured by a work environment that promotes a holistic approach to wellbeing through its policies, behaviors and design.
By providing a workplace that holistically affects wellbeing, business leaders can amplify the performance of its individuals, teams and the company as a whole. They’re also be able to:
- Attract and retain employees
- Reduce the effects of stress
- Reduce overall health costs
- Improve employee engagement and satisfaction