In my last blog discussion, Take the Stairs!, I talked about how to incorporate fitness into workplace design and shared how moving about and taking the stairs increases serotonin to elevate mood. There are even more ways to create healthier work environments.
Three thoughtful concepts that have a positive impact on the mood and comfort level of occupants within a space are: Beauty, Biophilia and Adaptable Spaces.
Aesthetic attraction is key to the perception of beauty. An aesthetically appealing space enhances emotional and intellectual development and boosts a person’s capacity for imagination and creativity.
Biophilic design develops from our human inclination to interact with nature and how that interaction contributes to human health, fitness and well-being. A successful biophilic design not only allows the occupants within the space to have direct contact with nature but also promotes recurring interaction, not just isolated experiences.
Both beauty and biophilia have positive impacts on our nervous systems. This counteracts the chronic stress and anxiety that cause our bodies to release stress hormones, which in turn cause negative psychological outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disease and others ailments.
Amenta Emma regularly implements these design elements into projects to impact building occupants in positive ways.
When designing Discovery Academy in Wethersfield, CT, for the Capital Region Education Council (CREC), designers paid attention to research that said schools connected to natural light and nature are calm, stimulating and invigorating. Inside, the building is infused with natural light, understood to enhance learning. The entry atrium is defined by wood and natural materials, as well as a calming water feature. Teaching spaces offer flexible seating, so students can manipulate spaces to support collective work.
Outside learning spaces include an amphitheater set off by elevated berms that allow views of natural areas, which have been planted with native wildflowers. There is a gathering circle under a signature oak tree and a rain garden, as well as planting beds, labyrinths, nature trails, boardwalks and bridges.
At Prolific, a New York company that designs mobile app technology, designers respected the company’s desire for “honest” materials, selecting a mix of natural materials for interior spaces. Polished concrete floors and exposed structure create a timeless and exciting environment reflective of the energy and creativity of this design firm. Exterior window walls were left open for employee work areas with views of the river, complete with stadium seating to allow for individual work or group collaboration and stand/sit opportunities for working. A large, open work café doubles as a meeting space. A living wall, affectionately dubbed “the Jungle,” by Prolific’s staff, anchors the reception and lounge areas. It creates identity and warmth and is always changing. “The space has built comradery,” says CEO Bobak Emamian. “When you walk in, there is a positive feeling, a sense of belonging and confidence. It has allowed us to collaborate in different ways, and it has given us an edge.”
Gaining momentum in the workplace is a movement for sleep support. Owners are realizing the benefit of providing spaces (sleeping pods, hammocks, cushioned roll-out mats) for short naps. Naps are an effective and healthy way to improve mental and physical acuity and, thus, productivity. Experts say naps are even more effective than caffeine.
Stay tuned for more posts on how comfort can affect design outcomes and employee health and well-being.