wellbeing in the workplace

Wellbeing in the workplace: what does successful design look like?

Jun 20, 2019
  • Article by Natalie Mortimer

The relationship we have today with our workplaces is dramatically different to how it was 10 years ago. Indeed, the entire idea of work has changed fundamentality and as a result workspaces need to adapt to reflect that.

That was the focus of a talk at Denfair today in Melbourne, which also explored how office spaces can not just support wellbeing, but actively enhance our lives.

We’ve all read about the blurring of work and home life, flexible working conditions and a design shift to emulating the comforts of home in the working environment. But a newer trend is evolving, one that places a greater emphasis on the correlation between wellbeing and performance and how the design of our workplaces can enhance that.

Speaking on the panel, Heidi Smith, partner at Gray Puksand, said that one of the biggest changes the architecture practice is seeing when it comes to workplace design is a demand for multi-use spaces that allow for different modes of working.

“The biggest change is that it [workplace design] used to be all about vibrancy and collaboration; open spaces that allowed people to bump into each other and exchange information.

“This is important, but what we got wrong was that there was nowhere else to go to retreat from that vibrancy and to decompress. What we are now seeing coming into our designs a lot more is quiet rooms with doors, whether for focused work or as a space to retreat.”

Smith said that building owners are also changing their attitudes and are asking for spaces for activities such as yoga, meditation and prayer, as well as consulting rooms where businesses might have dieticians or psychologists coming in to offer their services.

“Brain gyms are also appearing where you can stretch or paint or do a jigsaw,” added Smith. “It’s about recognising that people can’t just do eight hours straight: we need those breaks.”

Also speaking on the panel was Dr Adrian Medhurst from Benny Button, a company that is pioneering a personalised approach to employee wellbeing and performance improvement.

“A sense of belonging, time and time again in any theories on motivation, is key. And the fact that you can feel a sense of belonging in a workspace is really powerful as a motivational force to keep people doing work that they find meaningful – and the meaningfulness of work is another motivation as well,” he said.

“So if you want to get the best out of people, creating workspaces that give an opportunity for people to feel a sense of belonging will allow them to get the best out of themselves.”

Medhurst also said when it comes to workplaces and roles where employees that feel like work could be done elsewhere, people and workplaces need to take a bit more ownership and be conscious of which environment is going to be best for the type of work that you are doing.

“It’s true that some tasks, on some weeks, might be better performed in a different environment,” he said.

“That might be at home, it might be in a cafe, but it is also true that those environments might become a distraction; and as a result we need to be deliberate about finding a place that is going to be conducive to the work that we need to do.”

Photo by Roman Bozhko on Unsplash

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