Happy and healthy employees are cheaper for companies and more productive at the same time. This is not a fact, but more and more surveys seem to confirm it.
Personal well-being has become increasingly important in corporate organisation and office design: but what exactly do we mean with this term?
To answer this question we need to take a step back and understand a subtle (and often underestimated) difference between two terms: wellness and well-being. Understanding this difference can help us comprehend where recent design trends are heading.
Wellness vs well-being: the differences
In the last 10 years (even longer in ‘evolved’ companies!) there has been a lot of talk about corporate wellness programmes, aimed at improving the health of employees.
The concept of wellness includes all habits and behaviours that have a positive effect on an individual’s physical condition. How does this translate into interior design and office furniture choice? It translates in a word that is repeated very often in these pages: ergonomics.
In general, the wellness sphere also includes other company benefits, such as gym subscriptions, health agreements and bonuses for employees who agree to take part in health related courses.
Well-being is the yin to wellness’s yang: while the second speaks to a person’s physical state, the first speaks to a person’s mental state. The goal in this case is to create an environment that encourages psychological and mental wellbeing, through the organisation of people and spaces.
Organising spaces to improve well-being
Each company has its own specific features and the environment’s organization can only be a consequence of this. However, there are guidelines that can help in the design phase, aimed at improving wellness and well-being.
The authors of The Healthy Workplace Nudge talk about ‘environmental control’ as an additional feature to the corporate wellness programmes that already take place in many companies. According to this theory, careful planning and careful office furnishing choices can give a “nudge” to the employees themselves, who will “evolve” and start to behave more healthily.
This planning must take place in three spheres of action.
- Organisational nudge: people must have the right amount of space to walk around in the various office environments and must be able to move around and work in different areas of the company. Different types of seating should be provided, taking into account desk work, meeting and relaxation moments.
- Group nudge: Meeting spaces should be flexible and diverse in size and design. Smaller meeting spaces should be located close to workstations, while larger meeting areas (e.g. lounges and work cafés) should be located close to corridors and highly used areas.
- Individual nudge: workstation furniture should be ergonomic and customisable (e.g. different workstation seat adjustments). Placing lockers away from desks also creates additional space for socialising, while forcing the individual to move around to reach his or her personal belongings.
Furniture and well-being in the office: the necessary steps
So, what is required to create an office of all-round wellness and well-being?
Here are the aspects we musn’t forget.
- Choose ergonomic furniture, starting with a height-adjustable desk or seat. Here you will find a useful guide to help you choose your ideal office chair.
- Customise workstations according to the department, taking into account all its characteristics.
- Choose furniture that can be effortlessly customised by the employee (e.g. seat height, PC positioning).
- Create aggregation areas conceived as third places: we explain what this is all about at the following link.
- Design spaces taking advantage of natural light where possible.
- Evaluate furniture colours in different areas according to their functionality. In this article we talk about colour therapy applied to office furniture.
- Include natural and artistic elements, to encourage relaxation and the flow of ideas.