27 The value of wellbeing

Oliver Ronald of Boss Design looks at why employee wellbeing is heavily influencing workplace design and office furniture specification


any of us spend a large propor- tion of our lives in the office – up to 40 hours per week or more – and this can have a major impact on our work/life balance and wellbeing. There is now greater awareness that a better work/life balance starts in the workplace. But how exactly do we define wellbeing in the workplace? As important as ‘wellness’ is, wellbeing actually goes way beyond this. It’s a complex combination of the physical and psychological, as well as social and relationship aspects of our working lives. It includes factors such as our working environment, processes and even how we get on with our managers and colleagues. One thing that’s for sure is that given the rising statistics for absenteeism due to anxiety or depression, workplace wellbeing is a serious issue, and the cost to a company due to poor employee wellbeing can be significant. In addition to lost productivity, there are also added recruitment and training costs associated with a high turnover of staff. Put simply, when we’re happy and

healthy, we work better. However, while architects are not responsible for the overall culture of the organisation and how employees are treated, when design- ing a workplace they can help create an environment that employees can engage with, and feel comfortable in. Ideally, this needs to be an environment that fosters creativity, collaboration, innovation, and even thoughtfulness.

The workplace is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ environment. The new workplace comprises a series of environments or ‘habitats’ that enable us to easily switch our mode of focus – be it concentrating, learning, socialising, or collaborating. By furnishing these habitats with appropriate furniture to support our various activities during the course of a day, not only will it enhance our wellbeing, it will lead to a more streamlined and connected workplace in which we all stay fulfilled

and productive for longer periods. Typically, workplace habitats comprise a ‘welcome’ space that can double up as a reception or business lounge, a ‘home’ habitat where we perform our work, and a ‘collaboration’ habitat that helps drive communication and collaboration. In addition, a ‘flow’ habitat offers primary paths through the workplace that provide plenty of opportunities for planned and unplanned exchanges, together with formal meeting habitats. ‘Work-cafe’ habitats are also key environments for working and socialising and refuelling.

Office furniture has had to adapt signifi- cantly to accommodate new and modern methods of working. Instead of fixed desks that are ‘owned’ by individuals in the ‘home’ habitat, we now have ‘touchdown’ or ‘breakout’ facilities where we can access the


A work hub offers intimacy and privacy for individuals working in solitude

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