There’s so much talk these days about the office: open office versus closed; importance of collabora-
tion; the importance of acoustics; where
should people feel free to work anyhow?
No doubt changes in technology
have reinvented the workplace in recent
years, and American society is trying to
address what the “correct” answer is.
What’s more: Office managers are
trying to increase their retention rate
by adding amenity spaces or downtime
spots in-office where employees can
congregate. But this doesn’t mean ping
pong tables and a kegerator (although
those are appreciated).
Lois Goodell and Dave Madson, principals at CBT, discuss the office must-haves
for employee wellness and wellbeing.
This information comes from not only
their experiences in the field, but from
their many “Vision Labs” – two- to three-day brainstorming sessions that include
employees from interns to executives.
1) Bring Natural
Natural light “should be a prerequisite,”
says Madson. “The idea of natural light in
a space should be first and foremost.”
There is plenty of evidence to sup-
port the fact that access to natural light
throughout the day creates a healthier,
more productive environment. It also
makes employees happier when access to
natural light and scenery isn’t exclusive to
the upper echelons of the organization.
Madson continues, “We spend 95
percent of our time indoors. As animals,
that’s not what we were designed to do.
The idea of connecting with nature when
you’re in an interior space fires some
synapses that bring comfort to how
2) Introduce Variation
When discussing the trend toward bio-
philia, Goodell states that where you’re
raised will bring up different associations
to different environments.
“If you grew up along the eastern
seaboard, [your associations and experi-
ences are] going to be different than if
you grew up in the wide open plains in the
middle of the country,” so biophilia doesn’t
only work due to the reminder of the great
outdoors. Its importance “seems[s] to be a
little bit about textural change,” she says.
“Plants and the texture of leaves or the
colors of flowers; something that’s senso-
rial. It's our own biology that sets that in
Variety causes shifts in a person’s brain,
allowing them to focus on new things,
while their subconscious plugs away at
a tricky problem. But variation can be
caused by integrating different types of
spaces as well as textures, colors and
smells. Often times, this variation is avail-
able as amenity rooms or silent pods.
“The idea of variety,” Madson explains,
“can be something that swings the pen-
dulum one way toward something more
kinetic or chaotic to get you out of your
mindset of work, or swings it the other so
that it’s serene and quiet, almost zen.
“I think there’s a realization and understanding that to be productive in the
office doesn’t necessarily mean you’re
sitting at your desk for eight or 12 hours.
Instead, you’re using a variety of spaces
to go through this cycle of a typical day.”
3) Understand the
Importance of Social
Connections at Work
Likewise, collaboration doesn’t always
mean heads-down or boisterous work
across the table. Collaboration can also
look like the importance of an employee
being present in a space with coworkers so
that they feel seen and part of a whole.
“Social connection at work is the abil-
ity to see other people,” says Goodell,
“to feel like you’re amongst other people.
That is a much different approach than
the former thinking where even if you’re
with people, you’re in an office or at a
workstation. The emphasis is on individual
work [rather than] the idea of advancing
your connection to work. So, social not
so much in that it’s just conversation, but
it’s a lot more about ‘I’m here at work
because I want to share and learn and
connect with other people.'"
One way that variety of focus spaces
mixed with the importance of social connections was created during one of CBT’s
“Vision Labs.” A young employee came up
with the term “focus forest” to describe a
space where employees can meet together to do quiet work in each other’s midst.
“In a way it’s like a quiet car on a train or
a hushed environment like a reading room
in a library,” says Madson.
Seeing others and having the ability
to socialize can make employees focus
better while feeling a connection to their
4) Leadership Needs to
However, the best designed space
and most stocked amenities won’t mean
much if the resources are there without
employees seeing the support from
management. Creating a new company
culture means more than physical space;
it’s the way employees interact from the
“I think something that kind of goes
unsaid is the idea of complete buy-in
by leadership,” explains Madson. “If
that doesn’t happen, staff may not feel
comfortable to use that space or work
in a way that works for them. They may
feel they need to conform to the cultural
norms that are already existent in that
office environment. Getting buy-in from
leadership and having leadership do some
of those things is incredibly important for
a shift in more wellness and well-being-focused corporate culture.”
Kadie Yale firstname.lastname@example.org
is the architecture and design expert for
Must-Haves for Employee Wellness
AS OFFICE LAYOUTS CHANGE, INCREASE RETENTION RATE BY ADDING HEALTHY AMMENITIES
SOCIAL CONNECTIONS are a key
component of employee satisfaction.