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Notes from a Workplace Salon


Inscape hosted a Workspace Salon in our New York City showroom on February 20, 2013. Our topic was “Workspaces that Promote Well-Being”. We asked the group to address the following questions:

  • What are the vital signs of a healthy office?
  • Is having a consistent way to describe and measure an environment on health issues relevant and helpful? How?
  • What kind of features or approaches do you use to promote worker well-being in the office?
  • What are the biggest barriers to creating healthy offices?

Top 5 insights from the discussion:

1. Ergonomics shouldn’t end at the desk
There has been a great deal of work done around posture, motion and personal comfort at the workstation level but there hasn’t been much exploration on the impact of team spaces and casual spaces.

2. Check your Vital Signs
Just as there are vital signs for health in humans, there are indicators that an office will be helpful in promoting well-being. According to our group, the leading indicators are:

  • spaces that promote movement (open stairwells, centralized services, grounds that encourage walks)
  • good air quality (It’s a “given”)
  • employee choice about where and how to work
  • daylight
  • balance between quiet zones and active zones
  • balance between order and chaos

3. Unhealthy environments are expensive
There’s plenty of data on the high cost of turnover and lost time due to illness. The group saw an opportunity to position a healthier environment as a way for companies to save money and be more attractive to potential new hires. The argument is similar to convincing companies to invest in sustainability: spend a little more now — save a lot every day in the future.

4. Choosing right leads to health
Many of the participants spoke about providing opportunities for users to choose as a way of contributing to overall well-being, but others cautioned that people still need to make good choices to see benefits. The group posed the question: “How can an office space not just provide choice but help someone make good choices?”

5. It’s more than just the body
Healthy office design usually focuses on physical improvements like fresh air, daylight and exercise during the day. While our group agreed that these are important, they cautioned against ignoring things that reduce stress and promote happiness. In addition, one participant pointed out that an individual’s preferences are likely different than what a team might choose and suggested that additional research needs to be done on the psyche of collaborative work.

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| 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