The following is a guest post written by Melissa Marsh and Rachel Smith of PLASTARC, a social research, workplace innovation, and real estate strategy firm dedicated to shifting the metrics associated with workplace from ‘square feet and inches’, to ‘occupant satisfaction and performance.’
As the proliferation of fitness trackers, meditation apps, and mindfulness training courses attest to, the preoccupation with employee wellbeing is now decidedly mainstream. Expectations in the workplace have changed accordingly, as employees increasingly hold wellbeing—a composite of physical, emotional, and mental states—as an undisputed right, and one that should be supported by the workplace.
Not surprisingly, this shift has run parallel to an increasing awareness of alarmingly upward trends in chronic diseases. These have been attributed, at least in part, to the increase in sedentary behavior ushered in by reliance on auto transport, the continued engineering of homes, public spaces and schools to require the least amount of physical exertion possible, and the high number of hours the average person spends on the computer and in front of the TV.
The traditional workplace—where desk-bound workers sit for hours on end (an activity now hailed as “the new smoking”)—has also been fingered as a culprit, and thus a prime site for both inquiry and intervention. In line with employee expectations, and no doubt reflective of employers’ desired alleviation of health insurance costs, workplaces have responded through strategies like biophilic design, implementation of active design guidelines, and providing activity-based workspace.
But how does an environment suited to both productivity and employee wellbeing—a state understandably associated with relaxation and comfort—work? In the carefully conceived activity-based workspace, the latter can give way to the former.