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By Eric Luk

Designing workplaces of the future with a focus on health and wellbeing is not just a trend; it’s a necessity in a world where people spend a significant portion of their lives indoors. The importance of this endeavour is underscored by research and practical examples that demonstrate the positive impact of integrating nature and prioritising employee wellbeing.

Wellbeing in the workplace is not a new concept. The idea that the physical environment affects human behaviour has been recognised for decades. Architectural determinism, as coined by urban planner Maurice Broady, suggests that the design of a space influences human behaviour, mood, and overall mental wellbeing. The contemporary understanding of neuroscience and psychology supports this hypothesis, indicating that the design of a building’s architecture and interior can significantly impact employees’ wellbeing and productivity.

The link between employee wellbeing and business success is unmistakable. A healthy and engaged workforce is the cornerstone of a prosperous organisation. Therefore, investing in workplace design that promotes wellbeing is not only a gesture of care for employees but also a strategic decision that positively impacts the bottom line.

It is in businesses best interests to take wellbeing seriously

  • Improved Productivity: Research from the University of Warwick has shown that happier employees are more productive. In fact, happiness can increase workforce productivity by up to 12%. By creating an environment that fosters wellbeing, companies can boost their employees’ morale and, in turn, their productivity.
  • Employee Satisfaction and Loyalty: A healthy and conducive workplace is an attractive proposition for potential employees and a retention strategy for current ones. Millennials, in particular, prioritise work-life balance and wellbeing. Companies that invest in employee wellness and create a positive work environment are more likely to retain and attract top talent.
  • Health Benefits: Closed indoor environments can be susceptible to pollutants that can harm the health of the inhabitants. Prioritising indoor air quality and incorporating greenery can mitigate these risks, resulting in healthier and happier employees.
  • Mental Wellbeing: The design of a workspace can have a profound impact on mental wellbeing. Natural elements, greenery, and access to outdoor views can reduce stress and improve mental health, leading to a happier and more focused workforce.

There are a number of things to take into account when designing workplaces focussed on health and wellbeing:

  • Personalisation: Acknowledge that different employees have diverse needs and preferences. Allow for flexibility in workspace design to cater to individual roles and personalities.
  • Biophilic Design: Incorporate biophilic elements such as natural light, greenery, and materials inspired by nature. These features can create a strong connection to the natural world, reduce stress, and enhance creativity.
  • Versatile Spaces: Design office spaces that can adapt to a range of activities and functions. Multi-use areas that support diverse activities like yoga, gardening, and cooking can create a dynamic and engaging workplace.
  • Access to Nature: Prioritise access to outdoor spaces and views. Employees should be able to step outside easily, and workstations should be close to windows that overlook greenery.
  • Employee Policies: Implement policies and protocols that encourage employees to take advantage of nature throughout the workday. This can include walking meetings and a video-optional policy for certain meetings, allowing employees to work outdoors.

By embracing these strategies and making wellbeing a core aspect of workplace design, organisations can not only create healthier, happier, and more productive work environments but also set the stage for sustained success in an increasingly competitive and talent-focused world. Nature’s role in enhancing employee wellbeing is undeniable, and it’s time for businesses to integrate it into their workplaces.