Five rules for improved workplace wellbeing in 2019

With the new year comes a renewed impetus to reflect and focus on being healthier and happier in the year ahead

And since we typically spend more of our waking hours in the office than at home, we should all consider incorporating a few creature comforts to boost our spirits. We think nothing of moving the sofa, buying a pot plant and creating some mood lighting to improve the ambience in our homes, so why don’t we invest the same level of thought in our work environments?

With this in mind, here are five ideas for improving wellbeing at work:

1. Think natural

There has been an increased celebration of biomimicing systems in recent years – such as air filters made from organic materials – and the benefits these natural solutions can bring to employee health and wellbeing. Consider using natural materials wherever possible when designing solutions.

2. Bring the outdoors in

Biophilic design and power of nature in improving the office environment is well documented. Consider the varied ways in which nature can be brought into a building. Everything from office plants and green walls, to a mere suggestion of the outdoors through patterns and motifs.

Our LEED certified office in Los Angeles 

3. Keep calm

Collaboration has long been a buzzword when it comes to office design, resulting in environments kitted out with interactive whiteboards, brainstorm booths and ping pong tables to encourage people to work together and generate ideas.

However, it is important to appreciate that creativity is not always something you do with other people. Consider creating calm, tranquil spaces that allow for the quiet contemplation that is so valuable to the creative process.

This subject has been further explored by Anicee Bauer and Coen van Dijck of Dutch interior design and architecture firm D/Dock, who have demonstrated how they have created peaceful spaces for a number of large tech companies. They have also developed an Interior Quality Index that captures the cultural, emotional and spiritual aspects of office design – as well as the physical attributes.

4. Let there be light

Access to windows, dynamic lighting, increased amounts of light as well as reducing glare all have an impact of the health and wellbeing of building occupants. However, the words ‘workplace lighting’ still conjure images of the sort of harsh, neon strip-lights that make your eyes ache come the end of the working day. But rest assured the future of office illumination is far less fluorescent. The rise of LED lighting has made creating different lighting tones and schemes much easier.

5. Step up to the challenge

At Buro Happold, we are also looking to understand how subjective user preferences can be incorporated into our designs. For too long, engineers have fallen back on minimum standards for physiological function. That is why, as a practice, we are striving to break down the complex issues surrounding user comfort and satisfaction so that we can apply our expertise to resolve them.

In a recent conference, Trevor Keeling, an expert on creating healthier and more sustainable workplaces, spoke about the challenges and opportunities we have faced in furthering the use of data to track wellbeing and productivity, and illustrated our work in the area through specific project examples. He discussed Buro Happold’s use of the CBE survey, Indoor Environment Quality data and user interviews to tweak operations at Morphosis and improve user comfort. He also touched on the practice’s work at Shimoga, in which local comfort standards were used– as opposed to those developed in the UK or USA – to optimise passive design in a tropical climate.

Example of our Mumbai office green wall.

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