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A Simple Diagnosis for Wellness

To date, Inscape has held six salons on wellness in the workplace, but each time the conversation is new; with new insights, angles, and recommendations.  Our most recent salon in Boston framed the problem in its simplest terms, equating happiness with wellbeing.

Taking the Vital Signs

As we’ve discussed before, vital signs are the first step in any diagnosis. When discussing the vital signs of a healthy workplace, “happy employees” topped the list. The top indicator is employees with high morale and a passion for their work. Low absentee rate, low turnover, productive employees, and good energy in the office are all signs of health.


What kind of regimen is best for making employees happy?  Our group recommended three areas of treatment:

  • The Environment: When you walk into an office, employees should be engaged.  If they are doing heads-down work they should be focused on their task, not distracted by others. If they are participating in group work, participants should be mutually involved and communicating ideas.   When you pass a café space there should be a buzz and good energy of employees connecting with one another.
  • Benefits & Office Policies:  An interesting reminder came up while discussing benefits and policies within the office; the company nurse that was so common in the mid-century for many organizations has gone away. What that means is that now if someone doesn’t feel well it becomes an extraordinary deal to get the care they may need.  A doctor’s appointment needs to be made, and then time found to attend the appointment outside of the office.  Does the company protocols and technology support working from home when you aren’t feeling well?
  • Management:  A large emphasis was placed on the important role that managers play in an employee’s well-being. Managers should manage, motivate, and inspire.  “Bad managers become an infection in the body.”

Features that Promote Well-being

The first thing we discussed in creating spaces that promote well-being is designing space that supports the work that needs to get done. Provide the proper lighting, ergonomics, and tools that people will need.   Bring teams together so they can work together. Design space that promotes movement, encourage people to step away from their desks, provide a walking track for walking meetings or phone calls, or provide outdoor space for social activities.   In conjunction with what can be done from a design standpoint, the company wellness program implemented by Human Resources is incredibly important in supporting wellness within a company.

Our Responsibility

More and more, companies are relying on us as designers and real estate professionals to keep them safe and well at work. We have learned the importance of lighting and the long term effect that fluorescent lighting had on a generation of workers. It wasn’t so long ago that design promoted smoking: ashtrays integrated into furniture, into our vehicles and on planes. Today in many cities you can’t smoke fifteen feet within an entrance to an office building. At one point, asbestos was a preferred material because of its physical properties and now it is considered a highly hazardous material. This begs the question: what are the strategies and methods we’re using today that will be considered unhealthy or undesirable tomorrow?  From designing a space that promotes employee engagement, to designing a space that will keep employees safe, it’s all connected to creating a healthy workplace.

| By Jamie Feuerborn

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“A mega-trend is sharing instead of ownership of workspaces. We can either all ride in coach or we can share a private jet.”

Chris Blackadder
Principal, Woods Bagot