It happens to everyone. You look around at the stack of papers on your desk, the 50 tabs on your browser, yesterday's half-finished coffee and everything suddenly feels like too much. It's normal to sometimes feel overwhelmed at work.
It's important for designers to create spaces that help alleviate this stress and tension.
According to a recent study conducted by Kelton Global and National Business Furniture, 25% of American employees report that a lack of flexible and varied spaces can lead to disquiet in the office. Even more daunting, 43% of employees report that a lack of truly private space is a hurdle in the workday. While there's always improvements that can be made to individual workstations, creating relaxing spaces away from one's desk is an important piece of the commercial office design puzzle that becomes more relevant year after year.
[Related: Design for Wellness Beyond Today]
These mood-managing spaces aren't always secluded rooms equipped to handle headaches and exhaustion. Wellness areas should be created in naturally relaxing parts of the office, and sometimes that can be in areas promoting a culture of feeling better together, like a break room or library. Just as needs and emotions can vary, so can the form and function of different healthy spaces.
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A Secluded Solution
An isolated, completely private wellness room is an asset to any office. Amenity-rich and peaceful, these rooms are dedicated spaces for employees to completely decompress and de-stress when they need it the most. Furniture, décor and supplies should be carefully chosen and designed to inspire calm when employees are battling headaches, feeling a touch nauseous, becoming overwhelmed or just need to be alone for a moment.
Because of these varied purposes, a wellness room should be easy to clean and maintain. It’s wise to use healthcare-grade furniture and upholsteries in case of messes. At the same time, aesthetics is everything when it comes to a mental refresh. Add a stylish-yet-sturdy recliner with a coordinating set of end and coffee tables. Deck the walls with relaxing hues, such as taupe or light blue, and stick to simple and serene art to keep the mood subdued.
Feel Better Together
Envision that peaceful coffee shop, complete with dim lighting, neutral hues and a room full of people in the same space yet independent of one another. This is an aesthetic that's inherently calming and secluded from the bustle of the outside world. It gives people a chance to take a minute to sip a cup of coffee and mentally prepare for the next hurdle. Now, envision that same feeling, but situated within the office.
These public, work-free spaces often feel like wellness rooms that can be used simultaneously. When designing this type of space, break from the décor scheme of the rest of the office and outfit this room with true neutrals that aren't distracting. You can disguise the small oasis as a library and outfit it with a few bookcases stocked with industry-relevant (and occasionally not-so-relevant) books, the latest collection of The New York Times crossword puzzles and some magazines to flip through.
Seating should be comfortable and varied. Position a few cozy chairs around an ottoman to provide the deepest relaxation or set a squishy seat off to the side of the room for employees to have a moment of solitude. Tablet armchairs can give just a little bit of working space for setting down a cup of coffee or having a quick snack. For the more studious workers, mix in a few tables with simple-yet-comfortable seating for working on that crossword or reading a good book.
Some spaces need stately conference tables, some need a series of couches around a whiteboard, and others don't have these rigid requirements and meeting musts. Take the latter and flip it on its head. In an office that's already equipped with several meeting spaces, take a wide-open area and turn it into an informal gathering place where meaningful connections can be made, ideas can be shared or where somebody can simply take a breather.
Think outside the boardroom and get funky with your furniture. Scatter a few oversized beanbags in a sunny space next to a window or opt for easy-to-move soft seating shapes that can be arranged and rearranged with a little bit of whimsy. Go ahead and repurpose a ping-pong table and invest in a set of short stools. You'll inspire a sense of playfulness for a midday brain break or, when every other touchdown space is booked, simply gather around and use its ample surface space for work.
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Hide Out in Plain Sight
Even the most skilled space planners will leave a few nooks and crannies in an office layout, often at the end of a long hallway or in transitional areas between workspaces. Take advantage of these oft-forgotten and underutilized hideaways and use your design skills to create mini-wellness spaces. These areas are just enough of a getaway without having to wander too far from one's workspace, usually accommodating a chair or two.
Giving workers the space to take a visible breather isn't just for wellbeing. Seeing coworkers taking care of their own mental health inspires a positive company culture. Working some of these wellness elements into your design will help you bridge the gap between employee productivity and self-care.
Read Next: Renovated Offices, Wellness Spaces
About the author: Tonya Dybdahl is a space planning and design assistant manager for National Business Furniture.