Wellness, Can Design Really Make Us Feel Better?

Recently, at TAP, we have noticed that more and more designers are exploring the concept of wellness of the mind and body. In the age of digital overload, lack of sleep, sometimes unrealistic personal and professional expectations, we are asking can design really make us feel better?

A healthy mind and body are at the centre of human health. We have to eat well, exercise, sleep properly, and manage stress to achieve optimum well-being. However, designers are becoming increasingly aware of the effect our surroundings are having on our physical and mental well-being. This blog takes the Arup office in County Cork as a case study of an environment designed to fulfill it’s employees mental and physical needs. We then suggest some things you can initiate in your own office to improve staff well-being without breaking the bank.

ARUP Office Co. Cork

Arup engineering consultancy is the first company in Ireland to be awarded WELL Certification for its office in Cork. The WELL Building Standard, awarded by the International WELL Building Institute, focuses on the health and wellness of people in buildings.The office earned the certificate by considering seven different ‘wellness’ categories while building their office. Those categories are: air quality, water quality, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

A standard office temperature is something that is difficult to achieve especially now that many work spaces are open plan. In the Arup building the air coming from each vent is diffused to prevent drafts causing dry eyes or discomfort. Arup also have a sensor kit in the office that records air quality levels, for example carbon dioxide or other toxins. By ensuring the air quality is optimum throughout the working day, side effects of poor air quality such as nausea, dry skin and headaches can be minimised.

The office has been designed with spaces that encourage employees to change their posture and location to reduce the effects of the sedentary life we have become accustomed to. They have done this by including standing desks, break out spaces, booth seating and standing up meeting spaces.

The variety of seating types, kitchenettes and access to an outdoor balcony area encourage people to engage more frequently throughout the day. These small interactions can positively influence an employees mood and productivity which in turn can improve motivation and work ethic.

How to Improve your Office Well-being

A total redesign complete with ergonomic furniture and a rooftop break out space would certainly improve well-being in many work spaces, but sometimes this level of change isn’t always possible. Below we have outlined some smaller changes that can manifest a more positive atmosphere at work.

1. Healthy Snacks
Provide your workplace with a healthy snack box. Often in workplaces we do the opposite. There always seems to be a birthday cake or packet of biscuits floating around. However, these foods are more likely to make us tired and irritable once the sugar high wears off. A bowl of fruit or nuts and seeds is a good addition to any work place to prevent us reaching for sugary snacks when the 4pm slump hits.

2. Introduce 20% time

Allow your employees to work on something unrelated to their role for 20% of their time. This is said to improve energy and motivation levels as well as allowing employees to grow as people through other interests or upskill by learning something that could benefit their current role. Google introduced this initiative in their offices and some of their best solutions are said to have arisen as a result.

3. Take a Lunch Break

Encourage employees to take a lunch hour away from their desk and computer screen. This isn’t always possible due to tight deadlines and large work loads but the days you are busiest are often the days you could benefit most from a break. Allowing the mind to rest and unwind over lunch with colleagues can in turn make you more productive when you return to work. If you don’t want to spend lunch with colleagues why not go for a walk and boost your circulation and metabolism instead?

4. Do something social.

Host a team breakfast, go to a local talk or event related to your field. Organise a picnic or suggest a team tea break. Plan a sports day or team building event. Often having fun activities in the calendar will boost team moral – and competitivity if there is a prize or title to win.

There are so many things we can do to improve our work place well-being for free. The combination of considered interior design and positive office culture is sure to create an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable and enjoy working in.