We Heard it From You: Well-being Works

Last spring, we spent a day talking to people on the street about their workplace. We wondered: What did they like about their office? What were the pain points? Did their workplace impact their overall health and well-being? Put on the spot, these good sports—knowledge workers on their commutes and lunch breaks—delivered unvarnished opinions.

“Remember when I talked about 1982?” said a gentleman on his break. “That’s where I work.” I chuckled, conjuring up the image of a soulless space, probably devoid of natural light. His use of “1982” needed no further explanation, underscoring just how much workplaces have progressed. After all, an office without social spaces, amenities, or options of where to work now seems as antiquated as Dilbert’s cube farm.

While not everything about workplace design has uniformly improved (cue the debate on the merits of the open office), companies today are leaning into employee well-being—and asking how we can design to support it. To participate in the widespread conversation, we created a video merging our interviews with our position on supporting workplace well-being through design.

WHY WELL-BEING?

While every client has a unique set of drivers, several larger trends have influenced this topic’s currency:

We are working more

Knowledge workers in the U.S. spend an average of 47 hours a week at work. This doesn’t include the email you fire off while settling into bed or the conference call you take on your morning commute. While the nature of work today won’t change anytime soon, many companies are trying to mitigate the effects of a stressful week with the workplace. Think: meditation rooms, terraces, technology that doesn’t cause you to melt into a puddle of frustration, and even services like dry cleaning or childcare.

The war for talent is real

An economist speaking at a luncheon I attended last year confirmed what many suspect: We’re in a job-seekers’ market. And the nature of job seeker has changed, as opportunities improve. Nearly half of active job seekers are relatively happy at their current positions. Facing stiff competition in their respective markets, many of our clients are leveraging workplace design as another tool in their recruitment kits. Spaces, practices, and policies that demonstrate a commitment to employee well-being can offer an edge in the war for talent—and companies are seizing the opportunity to use these to attract and retain employees.

Healthy employees are more effective

Ever tried to focus in a freezing office? Or be creative in an uncomfortable chair? Companies are investing in workplaces that not only make us feel better—but also perform better. After all, these two go hand in hand. While productivity is a difficult thing to measure uniformly across industries, studies show that employees are more effective in an optimal environment.

A NEW MODEL

From our conversations with strangers, universal themes emerged: We all want to feel good at work; amenities make life more convenient; sit-stand desks are pretty cool; and truly, no one is averse to a great view. But after finishing this video, we wanted to take the research further to create an empirical—versus anecdotal—model of workplace well-being.

We conducted a review of leading academic, government, and commercial publications on the topic of well-being. Based on this review, and on our own experience, we are positing a model of workplace well-being that includes 11 key elements: socialization, physical health, pride, emotional health, sustainability, continuous learning, choice, security, comfort, stress-free technology, and convenience.

To kick this research project off, we want to hear from you. Is a gym in your office as important as a place to grab lunch with your colleague? Would a workplace designed for well-being impact your decision to take a job? Tell us what’s important here, or join the conversation in the comments.

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