Workplace Metabolism: Unchain your staff
People have long understood that working too much can kill you, though being unemployed may be worse for your health. Many have experienced some of the health-harming impacts of the traditional office environment, from indoor air pollution to hours spent sitting at a desk. But few regard the workplace as a catalyst in promoting health. That’s starting to change. As traditional office space gives way to more inspired and worker-centric design, there’s growing evidence of the health-giving potential of new workplace typologies. Today’s workspace aims to inspire delight, with more fresh air, natural light, greenhouse gardens, and space for workers to socialize and connect. Such design is not only good for productivity, it leads to fewer sick days, more restful sleep, and higher engagement.
New typologies focus not only on where people work, but how they work. Ergonomic design shifts from minimizing injury to maximizing health, moving from how one sits at a desk, for example, to tread-mill desks, standing desks, or no desks at all. Features like nap pods, meditation rooms, aromatherapy, communal kitchens, and areas for creative play are no longer seen as frivolous. Indeed, they reflect the broader trend of mixed-use development that blurs the lines between work and home. Both must offer space to work and relax. When the “office” can be accessed through the phone, employees become tethered to projects rather than place. For this increasingly unchained and empowered worker, going to the office becomes a choice.
- The workplace becomes a physical setting for optimising health and well-being, from desk designs that encourage movement to maximising natural light
- Communal spaces are upgraded with healthier food and beverage offerings, a more pleasing design, and features that encourage mingling.
- Bike storage, shower facilities, workplace competitions, and other incentives promote healthy choices.
- The office “health club” and medical office become less common as employers co-locate with service providers in mixed-use developments.
Superspace Workplace Metabolism Tool
Inspired by the Latin saying, “mens sana in corpore sano” (a sound mind in a sound body), Woods Bagot has developed a data analytics tool to measure and promote workplace health. Numerous data points are targeted and analysed to create a holistic picture, starting with employees themselves. Through wearable technologies and self-reported data on nutrition, exercise, restaurant choices, and social media activity, personal and group data is gathered. Other information can be added to that dashboard, including office utilization data, device usage, and worker movement, as well as metrics on noise, lighting, air quality, and other ambient factors. Together, they create a profile on workplace vitality. When given a fuller picture of the impact of their behaviour and environment, workers become more mindful of their choices and alter their patterns in ways that promote health and productivity. Employers, meanwhile, are using the data to make smarter choices about design and incentives.