9 Easy Design Hacks for a Healthy Workplace

Corporate wellness is increasingly becoming a priority for businesses across the globe; in many ways a healthy workplace is the next step from our focus on creating sustainable and environmentally friendly workplaces over the last 10 years.

Karl Treacher of The Brand Institute explains; “There are a number of dimensions of wellness in corporate environments and these can be expressed both overtly and covertly.  Overt expressions of wellness are clear and conspicuous and include the employee gym or fitness rebate, yoga or meditation sessions, in house or at-desk massage.  They can also include stress-reduction programs, an employee cafeteria or fruit baskets delivered each week.   Overt expressions of wellness are usually experienced through sight, touch and taste”.

More intrinsic expressions of wellness are experienced through taste, hearing and smell. These are the subtle and unnoticed expressions of an organisation’s wellness program and culture. This could be the controlled scent that changes through the day, the auditory experiences curated for different environments and times, and the careful selection of the catering menu to include food choices that are delicious, fresh and healthy.

 Whilst these wellness initiatives can all be easily achieved by large corporations what can small businesses or individuals do to improve wellness at work?  Here are 9 design hacks for a healthy workplace:

1. POSTURE - provide different settings in the environment that encourage people to sit, stand and move throughout their day. Buy the best quality ergonomic chair(s) you can afford, make sure all furniture settings support people’s posture, especially when using mobile technologies.  Seventies style bean bags no longer cut it!  Most good furniture suppliers will also come and give your staff a lesson on ergonomics and how to adjust their chairs to encourage good posture.  Providing staff with a page of simple stretches to do at intervals throughout the day is also useful and promotes good circulation.

2. FITNESS – provide support spaces that give people the opportunity to be active whilst at their place of work. Encourage people to take the stairs and walk to meetings instead of taking taxis.  You could even consider standing meetings, including a treadmill for slow walking whilst using the phone or providing wearable devices for staff to encourage healthy competition via a weekly “most steps taken” competition.  Digital music services such as Spotify can be used to play background music that is mentally stimulating and de-stressing.

3. NUTRIENTS - providing a healthy food offering to clients and staff supports a healthy lifestyle and improves overall wellbeing. No matter how small your catering budget is you can always provide fruit, nuts, sushi and other healthy items for gathering, events and meetings rather than cakes, sweets and biscuits.  Healthy food is ‘brain food’ and feeds the mind as well as the body.     

4. CHOICE – creating a working environment, no matter how small, that is an ecosystem of interrelated zones and settings provides users with a range of spaces that support their various work modes. A variety of spaces is important (including quiet, collaborative, individual, playful, social and focused areas).  These can be created with mobile screens, curtains, furniture settings and don’t necessarily have to be hard walls.  Choice is both mentally and physically stimulating and promotes autonomy amongst teams and individuals.

 5. QUALITY - Access to natural light and quality of air is an important contributor to wellness in the workplace. Try not to build up against windows and make sure everyone has access to whatever views are available.  If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor area – use this to its fullest potential!  Monthly team bbq’s, outdoor meetings when weather permits and encouraging staff to eat lunch outside or away from their desks all contribute to wellness in the workplace.

6. CONNECTION - employees and visitors need to feel connected to each other. Barriers to communication should be minimized where possible and being able to easily see if people are in the workspace helps people feel connected, supported and part of a collaborative team.   Decluttering the workplace also goes a long way towards providing clarity and connection in the office.  Imagine working in an office so littered with paper and other paraphernalia that it is impossible to find a clear surface to collaborate!

7. EXPERIENCE - a range of mixed presence experiences both physical and virtual are essential in creating a positive attitude. Face to face combined with virtual communication is a way of life these days, however you don’t need expensive technology to support this. Technologies such as Skype and Google Chromebox are easily accessible and practices such as Scrum and Agile promote collaborative development of products and services.

 8. TECHNOLOGY - technology is more and more used to enable and support connection between employees and clients. There are a vast range of apps that can be used for both communication, recording and sharing of information. Remote teams can collaborate via Leankit and other software; technology also means that individuals have greater control over their own work/life balance as they have much more flexibility in how they communicate and collaborate with each other. For example, parents can drop children at school then participate in a conference call during their commute – allowing them to meet both family and work commitments and have much more control over their own time.

9. BELONGING - Team members need to feel as though they can connect with an organisation on both a cultural and social level. Creating a sense of belonging is about finding activities or events that best suit the culture of the business. It can be as simple as finishing early on a Friday to have a glass of wine together and celebrate the week’s successes.  Other more social activities can include ten pin bowling, a trip to the art museum at lunchtime, sailing, or participating together in a charity event.  Feeling that they belong to a group of like-minded people helps staff develop deep long lasting relationships, and in times of stress these connections can be invaluable.

“Western culture typically views the mind, the body and the environment separately, but science is showing that they are inextricably linked, as Eastern cultures have long known.”   360 degrees, Steelcase. Issue 67

By Angela Ferguson

Angela Ferguson