By Tammy Stouchko, Principal, SSP Architects
Note: This is the first of a two-part blog focusing on interior design trends to consider when seeking to create healthier, person-centered workplaces.
While the debate continues about the need to return to the office to work most effectively, those who have come back are rightfully requesting a workplace that prioritizes a healthy environment. This is why we are beginning to see more employers taking a closer look at starting a holistic approach to create sustainable office interiors that promote health and well-being.
It has been gratifying to speak with corporate heads who are increasingly asking architecture firms such as SSP to create a more unifying, engaging and comfortable office spaces that make mental and physical health a priority. When they do ask for our team’s help, we always start the interior design exploration process with a key question:
How do you, your team and customers envision a designed space that is both mentally uplifting and person-centered?
Answers to this question are a good starting point to begin an ongoing conversation on what works best for each individual client when it comes to realizing their vision for a people-first interior design space. Together, we then explore an approach that works best for them to create a healthy working environment – a core component to attracting high-quality employees and retaining them.
This approach has gained increasing popularity with the backing of a relatively new design philosophy called WELL building. Architects using WELL interior design techniques have a primary goal of improving employee health and comfort.
When SSP moved its headquarters two years ago, it desired to put WELL’s philosophy into action. In a sense, we were our most demanding client. If we got it right, our clients would benefit from our experience.
Two major areas our employees asked us to address – like most of our clients – was increased movement opportunities and access to natural light.
When it comes to movement opportunities, this was addressed by offering numerous options for hosting meetings with others, and ergonomic seating and desks enabling our team to adjust work from a sitting or standing position. With an open plan workspace, SSP’s office gives employees access to a much-needed, quiet space.
Wherever you are in the office, employees have exposure to natural light and a full view of Somerville’s historic downtown area and mountains in the distance. Recent data confirms that this open, light filled design approach has proven to increase productivity, boost moods and reduce rates of anxiety and depression. This is backed up by a Cornell University study that found that “optimization of natural light in an office significantly improves health and wellness among workers.”
When Raritan Valley Community College asked us to create a more welcoming, stress reducing, light filled interior for its Workforce Development Center, our headquarter experience was most helpful. Bringing in more natural light into the building is quickly apparent as you enter the Center’s bright lobby with large windows. The lobby’s comfortable, large, cushioned seats, lovely artwork and earth tone pallet set the welcoming and soothing environment the college was seeking. With the help of this renovation, students seeking to enter the professional trades now enjoy a more positive interior vibe in this hub of learning.
Bringing aspects of the natural outside world into the office interior has also shown to reduce work-related stress. A University of Exeter study found that having natural elements such as plants, natural wood finishes and fish tanks in the office increases productivity by up to 15%. It found that a “greener office” incorporating biophilic design is more health enhancing than office spaces featuring “leaner” plant free designs.
A wonderful trend being led by companies with larger office space is creating workspaces that offer respite and meditation rooms, light and plant filled areas that allow for mental resets, and wellness centers. A large, open break room space incorporating large tables encourages employees to share lunch – a proven way to create a friendlier work atmosphere. What better way to make employees feel good about returning to the office?
With indoor air quality (IAQ) now top of mind due to health concerns, people are increasingly realizing the need to avoid using products or furnishings that give off Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that can cause eye and respiratory inflammation, headaches, fatigue, and inability to concentrate. It always best to choose interior items with low or no VOCs. This is especially important with paints, coatings, and wood treatments. Beyond the furnishings, it is important to understand the functioning of the mechanical system and optimize filtered fresh air and air exchanges.
If you are interested in working with an architect that prioritizes interior designs that focus on your employee’s wellbeing – a key aspect to your business success – contact SSP Architects today for a free conversation about your commercial interior design project.
Next week’s Interior Design blog: How Today’s Interior Design Merges Technology and Psychology, Old and New