Wear Red in February, Design for Wellness All Year Long

Did you notice an abundance of red in your office on Friday, February 1st? No, your coworkers are not just excited for this upcoming Valentine’s Day; they were ‘going red for women’. Since 2003, the first Friday of every February is designated by the American Heart Association as Go Red for Women Day® to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease. Throughout the country, women come together to support the mission and lifesaving work of the American Heart Association and wearing red has become the tag line to emphasize the surprising facts about women’s heart health. Highlighting this day got us thinking about our individual choices and the importance of healthy eating habits and physical activity and exercise programs, but also about the important role that our environment plays as we strive for a healthier lifestyle.

Great design and thoughtful products can elevate moods, promote healthy work habits, reduce stress, eliminate physical strain and muscle pain, and inspire creativity and professional development. This translates to a reduction in sick days, greater productivity and performance, and ultimately business growth. Designing and furnishing workplaces is more than just choosing the right desk or chair based on price and aesthetics. Leaders that recognize the need to support the physical and emotional needs of their employees through design have a significant advantage in the marketplace when attracting and retaining talent. Based upon our experiences counseling clients about designing their spaces for wellness and functionality, here are some tips for assessing your environment:

Offer a spectrum of spaces

The well-designed office features an appropriate mix of both private and collaborative environments, producing a range of spaces that are nurturing and socially stimulating. Although the convenience of modern technology allows for mobility within the office, we can accomplish so much at personal computers it may actually create less need to step away and take a break. Open work areas give employees reasons to get up and interact with co-workers. This promotes a healthier state of both mind and body, while boosting overall productivity. In lieu of isolated conference rooms, make spaces available for relaxed and public meetings. Consider setting aside a quiet space or a meditation room to provide employees with the chance to relax and “unplug” when stress begins to affect their health and/or performance.

Make comfort count.

Ergonomics are essential and comfort matters. When it comes to furnishings, making the upfront investment in high quality, comfortable furniture will save you money in the long run. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, musculoskeletal diseases, including back pain, arthritis, bodily injuries and osteoporosis, are reportedly plaguing Americans more than any other health condition. To avoid these health issues, we work with clients to provide tools for added comfort and flexibility such as keyboard trays, standing desks, task lights, docking stations and computer monitor arms.

Let there be light.

Among the most important design priorities is lighting. Access to natural light in workspaces maximizes employee performance and their personal sense of control. People generally prefer to be surrounded by or have access to natural elements that provide variation and sensory stimulation throughout the day. We encourage clients to emphasize daylight views with proper design layouts. For example, plan enclosed office spaces at the center of the office, allowing maximum use of natural light. Using low height workstations and glass partitions also helps create a sense of openness with privacy.

 Don’t forget to take time to educate employees about how to effectively use their space. Training is critical to bringing workplace wellness initiatives full circle. You can provide the necessary tools, like ergonomic seating, but if you don’t show and educate team members the most ergonomically appropriate way to sit, those updates may be underutilized.

 While many take the month of February to highlight heart health and overall wellness, we think it’s something that should be focused on all year. Give us a call to discuss creating your healthier, wellness-focused environment.