When Schmidt Associates began in the mid-70’s, office design was based largely on the assumption that a worker was assigned a single, functional space, suited to a single task. The idea of comfort in the workplace was confined largely to the individual’s desk and focused on things like surface space, storage, and ergonomic design of things like telephones, chairs, and pens. This approach made it difficult to think of the impact of design on worker productivity outside of this narrow scope, and as a result, offices were often functional and even somewhat clinical.
In the past decade, smart designers have begun to think differently about how we use our spaces at work, and how productivity is affected by more than the comfort of a desk chair.
Looking Beyond Productivity, Great Design Considers a Worker’s Wellness.
Big companies are spending big money on their workers’ wellness to attract top talent and drive down insurance costs, but it has a larger impact on the organization in terms of productivity. But how can design help foster a worker’s wellness, happiness, and productivity? It starts by thinking about the space they occupy beyond the desk.
Consider a typical office environment with about 150 square feet of space per employee. Most of it isn’t occupied by their individual workspace, it’s common areas like break rooms, restrooms and the like. In order to really create a great work environment, it’s those extra, shared spaces that have become the area of focus. Adding some of the comforts of home to common areas in the office has recently become the norm.
The stereotypical startup office is probably the easiest example for most to recall. The offices of Silicon Valley tech giants like Google and Facebook are often lauded for their quirky, comfy amenities that workers are free to use at their discretion. But you don’t have to be worth billions to give your employees the right kinds of spaces to enjoy away from their desk.
By re-imagining and devoting just a little extra time, effort, and resource to these common areas, we can see how the bland and boring break room can become a coffee bar that employees love to take meetings in. A breakout room can replace cold, stiff tables and chairs with lounge seating and a whiteboard for low-stress meetings away from distractions.
A 2015 study by Human Spaces found that simply having natural elements in the workplace created a 15% higher level of well-being and a 6% increase in productivity. Now, the office plays into recruitment and retention. How do you stack up?
In the 40 years that Schmidt Associates has been designing office and work environments, a lot has changed, but our commitment to our client owners has not. How can we incorporate some homey comfort into your workplace to increase wellness and boost productivity? We’d love to work together to find out.
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