Office Design: Even Small Design Changes Can Boost Employee Wellbeing.

High-top tables strategically located throughout an office not only provide alternatives for impromptu conversations and meetings, they also encourage healthy habits by inviting employees to get up from their desks.

Managers who have recognized the clear correlation between employees’ health, productivity and profits are the ones who are now building sustainable, profitable businesses.  Progressive companies are working with external consultants such as physicians, dietitians and fitness experts, to develop and implement programmes to improve health and wellbeing. Companies who recognise their role in keeping their staff in good shape should be highly commended.

With the recent barrage of articles about how your office could be harmful to health, together with the ever rising costs of healthcare, company wellness programs have now become much more prominent . Currently, most employee wellness efforts focus on optional programmes that try to convince people to change their lifestyle, but sustaining employee enthusiasm for these programmes can be a challenge. If companies want to have a lasting impact on employee health, they need to permanently integrate healthy design into their workplaces.

Activate active office design

Where we place workstations, printers, breakout areas, and meeting rooms can encourage movement and interaction in the office.

Called “active design,” the theory is to create a stimulating environment that encourages bouts of walking to shared spaces. Yes, designing for activity can sacrifice efficiency, but it also creates energy and vibrancy. The by-product of movement throughout the office, is that it creates opportunities for personal interaction and the cross-pollination of ideas.

Additionally, workstations with standing desks and walking work stations provide opportunities for activity. Something as simple as a stability ball instead of office chairs makes sitting an exercise activity in itself.

Beyond layout and furnishings, regular and purposeful break times encourage people to get up and move. Studies show that regular breaks make people more productive. And as company leaders walk around the office, the walls that physically separate leaders from employees come down, improving communication, staff relations and reducing stress.

Consider stress-free design solutions

While optimum design encourages collaboration and conversation, employees who are more introverted can find such environments to be stressful.

Companies can reduce environmental stress by offering different types of areas for staff to work – quiet spaces along with more active spaces. With spaces to concentrate as well as collaborate, employees’ mental well-being is as supported as their physical well-being.

Walking meetings for one-on-one discussions also set a healthy tone in the office. Designing both indoor or outdoor paths in and around the office encourage these encounters, including visible and open stairways.

The goal behind these strategies is to integrate as many healthy, behavioral changes as possible, without the big challenge of committing to a new workplace lifestyle. Just as putting out a fruit bowl instead of a candy dish can change the snacking habits of employees. Creating healthy alternatives that invite employees to change their daily habits, can have a direct impact on their wellbeing as well as on their productivity.

As health care costs to businesses and employees continue to rise, it is imperative for companies to map new wellbeing strategies. These strategies not only can help curb some of the rising health care costs, but they may even help recruit new, better, talent. Demonstrating a commitment to health, companies could find themselves becoming a employer of choice, giving them a clear recruitment advantage.