I recently came across a staggering figure: The average American spends 93 percent of their life indoors – 87 percent in buildings and 6 percent in vehicles. If the majority of your time is spent inside somewhere, it should go without saying the design of the indoor environment should support your health and wellbeing, right? But only in the last two decades or so has much attention been paid to what that means for workplaces – the place we adults spend the majority of our days.

LynnCoit_DenverDesignWeek2017Workplace design was the focus of a recent panel I was on during Denver Design Week called, “Good Design Is Good Business: Creating Impactful, Modern Workplace Designs.” It was clear from our discussion that more companies are recognizing that the design of their offices can be a powerful tool for both recruitment and retention of top talent. 

As designers, we approach every project with a client’s individual goals in mind. When it comes to health and wellbeing, we find out what their goals are and then support those through the design of the physical space. While every project is different, here are three common design elements we see as imperative in creating a healthy workplace:

  1. Create Active Spaces

Whether it’s a common bar area like we designed for Capital Value Advisors or open work stations like we did for Design Workshop, spaces that prioritize interaction, collaboration and connection can improve employee engagement and productivity.

This is not to say supporting individual, concentrated work isn’t important – you have to design for that as well. The key is to consider the different types of experiences you want to foster in a space and then design for those as opposed to just designing with a ‘one employee, one desk, one chair’ mindset.

  1. Be Mindful of Acoustics

With open layouts comes an increase in noise. But there are strategies for taking the noise level down from ‘distracting and annoying’ to ‘vibrant and energizing’. Soft surfaces are your friend. While you won’t use fuzzy workstations, you can incorporate carpet and seating areas with couches and pillows. Not only will this absorb noise, but you will also create a warmer and more inviting environment for your employees and clients. For ideas, check out our design for NetApp

  1. Bring the Outside In

Simply put, nature is good for people. If your office doesn’t offer access to outdoor space (E.g., a patio or balcony), make sure you maximize natural light. This is a cost-effective way to take care of your employees and can be done rather simply.

Instead of placing individual offices around the perimeter of a building, place them in the middle with glass walls that face the windows. Then, place low-wall cubicles or workstations next to the window. The idea is to keep all access to natural light a communal benefit, like we did for Solidifi, a Real Matters company, in their new office in the historic Dodge Brothers Showroom building.  

As you embark on creating a healthier workplace, keep these three elements in mind. Spending money where it counts will ensure you don’t break the bank with a remodel or build out. In the long run, your bottom line – and your employees – will thank you.