What employees value in an office environment has changed over the past two years. With hybrid work now more prevalent than ever, workers see the office as a space to experience and create community. According to Gartner, employers must find the right balance between at-home and on-site work. “Organizations have reacted to this crisis by recreating what they know, but rather than merely adapting principles from the on-site environment to the hybrid world, organizations need to unlearn old habits and fundamentally rethink work design,” said Jérôme Mackowiak, director, advisory, in the Gartner HR practice. “Forcing employees to go back to the on-site environment could result in employers losing up to 39% of their workforce.”

In a study conducted by Psych Central researching how workplace design contributes to mental health and well-being, the average person spends 33% of their waking time in their workplace on a weekly basis. As such, the physical workplace environment has a major impact on everything from happiness and mood to productivity and focus. The study concludes that “good working conditions enable employees to work effectively” and that “investments in the physical workplace that create those conditions pay back quickly.”

Workers value flexibility in their work and use work-from-home days to accomplish projects uninterrupted. They look at the office as a communal environment–they want to connect with colleagues, collaborate with each other, and have opportunities for in-person mentorship. With so much to take into consideration as the office environments change, how can workplace design impact well-being when teams are in-office?

In our experience as experts in the built environment, organizational teams seek workspaces that promote employee health and wellness. Aspects such as natural light, air quality, and ergonomics come into play when designing a wellness-inspired environment–and of course, creating a space that whole-heartedly reflects and emphasizes the brand. Since the pandemic, we’ve been forced to rethink everything. Part of designing for wellness now includes transitioning from less “me” space to more “we” space and understanding the importance of collaborative environments.

There are many different scenarios to consider when designing collaborative spaces: one-on-one spaces for meetings, large conference areas for all-team meetings or trainings, and creative spaces that spark innovation. And all spaces must be equipped for digital conferencing, including crisp and clear audio and visual capabilities. By creating more community spaces, employees are better supported, more engaged with their peers, and ultimately more productive with their in-office work. Choosing to design these spaces with wellness in mind further amplifies these benefits for the entire team. Some ways to incorporate a design that boosts employee wellness are bringing in green space, making sure office designs bring in natural light, and displaying art pieces that reflect your community and your brand.

In one Kolar case study, our team worked with World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to create a Future of Work Vision and experience for its team that reflects the values of the organization and inspires collaboration within the built environment in a new, post-pandemic workplace. Incorporating sustainability and wellness into their work environment goals was also a critical piece to ingrain in the WBCSD space. The team wanted to ensure their office was not only sustainably sourced and built, but also felt like a renewed, outdoor space brought indoors.

A key aspect of the redesign was to take the space from 30% team-focused “we space” to 70% “we space”, ensuring there was ample opportunity for collaboration and socialization throughout. From comfortable, living-room-style lounge areas to an expansive cafe with several comfortable seating options, the added “we space” allowed the team to now choose an inspiring space to meet and work.

WBCSD worked with the Kolar team to create carefully designed digital zoom rooms and conference rooms with state-of-the-art video and sound equipment for conference calls overseas – an important investment for a global company.

Through the project, the Kolar team was able to develop qualitative and quantitative key performance indicators (KPIs) to help the WBCSD team outline their journey to achieve their Future of Work Vision goals.

Are you interested in learning more about how design can impact your employees’ well-being? Contact the Kolar team today.