Over the past several decades, we have witnessed a shift in workers and workplaces. To recruit and retain top talent, employers have had to adjust to the demands of a new generation of workers. A large part of that adjustment involves employee wellness initiatives.
While a part of many businesses’ strategies for years, in recent years the role of workplace wellness has expanded. What was once seen as a method to lower employer healthcare costs is now viewed as an important tool to improve worker productivity, enhance recruitment efforts, and increase employee retention.
In today’s employment environment, having an employee wellness program is not only beneficial for workers and employers–it’s essential.
Workers expect employers to look out for their employees’ well-being
According to the article, Office Expectations Are Changing–Is Your Company Ready?, published by WorkDesign Magazine, employees want more control over their time and their workspace. Author Lisa Pueschel cites the Staples Workplace Survey which found that workers are spending less time in the office and more time working remotely.
Additionally, modern employees expect their employers to take their well-being into account when planning jobs and workspaces, Pueschel writes. Specifically, she notes, employees want employers to provide healthy food and drink options, fitness centers, private and personal spaces in which to work, and ergonomic furniture.
The Staples organization isn’t alone in noticing this trend. We spoke with Allyson Strowbridge, owner of the workspace design consulting firm, ctrl+shift+space, and she told us that much of what she does centers on creating a work environment that supports employee health and well-being.
During our conversation, Strowbridge shared with us several tips that employers can use to develop a space that supports their employees’ physical and mental well-being.
Six Ways to Create a Wellness-Friendly Workspace
1. Use interior design to communicate your brand’s values
Strowbridge told us that one of her goals when working with a company is to create a space where workers feel valued. At the same time, it is important that the space reflects the individual company’s branding and values. This means assessing the space from not only the owner or CEO’s perspective, but from that of the people who will work in that space each day. She recommends that employers perform a workspace assessment before they begin designing or refurbishing their space.
2. Provide employees with mixed spaces that are functional and inspiring
While an open office design may make use of every inch of space all the time, it doesn’t always do so effectively. As the Staple’s study confirms, employees need places to work in quiet and speak to clients or one another in private. Strowbridge recommends that employers create unique gathering places where employees can exchange ideas as well as quieter spaces for employees who need a place to be alone and focus.
3. Make room for wellness
Whether your company sponsors on-site wellness activities or not, creating one or more wellness spaces is a good idea. One of the first companies that Strowbridge worked with had a dedicated space for employees to practice yoga. Other organizations provide meditation or nap rooms where employees can go to shake off stress.
Incorporating walkways and paths throughout your corporate campus or including an atrium filled with natural light are additional ways that you can design a workspace that supports your employees’ well-being.
4. Accessorize with elements that enhance performance and well-being
Small steps such as incorporating sound-dampening curtains, adjustable lighting, and live plants into your workspace design can make a big difference in your employees’ happiness and productivity, Strowbridge told us. Adding fabric and textures to furniture, walls, and window coverings can help improve a room’s acoustics and visual impact.
Plants can serve as room dividers and air and sound filters as well as bring a piece of nature into the workplace, Strowbridge advised.
And, these changes don’t have to be costly to be effective. Strowbridge shared an example of one of her clients that improved the lighting at its facility by adding inexpensive filters to its existing fluorescent light fixtures.
5. Encourage ergonomically-sound movement
Standing desks and desks that allow users to alternate between sitting and standing have become an increasingly popular wellness perk for office workers in recent years. These desks encourage employees to adjust their position when at their desk, helping them to increase their activity levels and avoid musculoskeletal strain.
But there are other ways that employers can implement sound ergonomics in the workplace. Strowbridge recommends that employers evaluate the way employees move through their workspace and make adjustments to improve their workflow. Ensure that items that are needed often can be obtained without employees having to use an awkward position such as reaching above their heads. Also, check the weight of items that must be moved frequently and store heavier items at optimum heights to avoid lifting injuries.
6. Consider the psychological impact of your physical space’s design
Finally, to enhance your employees’ emotional well-being, create a space design that allows them to engage and interact with fellow employees as they move through your facility. But also provide them with the autonomy to control their own space. For example, employees such as those in HR who must handle confidential information need to be able to access that information efficiently without risking its security, Strowbridge notes. This may require a nearby locking file cabinet and sliding privacy panels for office doorways.
The modern approach to wellness design is a holistic approach
As leading providers of wellness support for companies of all sizes, we know that a focus on employee well-being brings with it many rewards. We also know that the most effective wellness programs are those that take a personalized and holistic approach. By looking at every aspect of your company’s culture and environment and asking your employees what they want and need, you can create a unique wellness program that your employees will love.
The more we learn about workplace wellness and employee well-being, the more we learn that it isn’t just one thing. What features will you add to your wellness program next?