The Big Question – September 2018

What is the biggest change you have seen, first hand, that has come as a direct result of implementing wellbeing and sustainability practices? 


Michelle Wilkie, Director, tp bennett
In a world where we are always connected, designers are working with clients to help them switch off. Gone are the days of a token plant in the corner to symbolise sustainability – clients are now actively seeking spaces that inspire wellness and contemplation, creating a conscious reconnection back to nature through embracing biophilic design principles – but, most importantly, creating a culture of wellbeing, led by the top down. Hopefully, soon, we will all be leaving the office healthier than when we arrived!


Gary Helm, Founder, obo
We are increasingly realising that improving the physical environment of a person is proving to be a more effective and economical path to improving health. Intelligently and thoughtfully designed spaces can ‘nudge’ people into making healthy choices. This has to be more sustainable than trying to force people to adopt new behaviours. Behaviours that are, after all, in the best interests of their own physical being.


Naomi Jones, Associate Partner, Sheppard Robson
For me, a big change is that it’s not only creative companies and professional services clients who now see the value in ‘other’ workspaces in the office. It’s not just about a desk or an office anymore. We are asked to think much more broadly about health in offices: how do we encourage physical movement? What facilities help people live/work more effectively and in a healthier way? We are challenged to think about how surfaces and materials can have a calming effect on the users.


Maxine Bennett, Director, Wylde IA
One of the biggest changes in workplace in recent years has to be the implementation of wellbeing strategies by employers. We are now designing spaces that support wellbeing and consider different issues as a strategy for organising space. Our annual ‘Happiest Workplace’ competition has seen a real shift from the usual ‘perks’. We have partnered with MIND this year in recognition of the importance of mental health as well as physical wellbeing in the world of work.


Simon Hart, Head of Design, AIS
Post project handover, clients have been reporting real increases in staff productivity through measurable data sets such as absenteeism, staff turnover and a reduction in email traffic. All of which serve as strong indicators of the benefits of applying wellness principles to the workplace. Whilst the importance of environmental considerations is undeniable, when it comes to working with building occupiers, these short- to mid-term measurables offer a real financial benefit.


Tim Gledstone, Partner, Squire and Partners
Wellbeing is by far the greatest changing component of the workspace environment, being driven by the demands and needs of users. The better the facilities on offer, the more desirable the workspace. User requirements range from pragmatic needs such as bike storage and showers, to calm meditative spaces and areas for stimulating social interaction. Uses need to be carefully considered and curated to design for every sense and every moment.