Raquel Machado explores the value of creating places for pause, enabling people to address challenges in new ways.
Many offices already go well beyond providing for the basic needs of their people. But how do we continue to push boundaries to support physical and mental health and wellbeing in the workplace?
I’ve always been eager to explore design solutions that enhance the quality of people’s lives. COVID-19 is now prompting many questions as people consider how they can live and work in healthier, happier ways.
Although many businesses are already exploring flexibility, how can we look beyond designing for how people work, to create space for downtime and rest? Building environments not only for focus or collaboration, but prioritising calm. This will help shift our understanding of versatility to new forms.
In an age of burnout, high stress-levels and fast-paced work, how do we step away for some much-needed headspace? We know that by providing comfort and safety, we can enhance morale, boost confidence and reduce stress. Spaces that acknowledge pause are one way of re-energising people and supporting better work.
There’s a lot we can learn from “Niksen”, the Dutch concept of “doing nothing”. Explored as a way to combat work-related health problems, this mindfulness approach is a meditative relaxation technique to help people regain control. Highly valuing time off, people in The Netherlands put a strong focus on staying healthy and re-energising during their breaks.
For most, work is no longer a 9 to 5. Work and life have become intrinsically interwoven. This means that talent are now starting to look for companies that are aligned with their own values. They want to work for businesses that will nurture them and enable them to work however they can do best. When you empower people to be responsible for their own time and output, they take ownership and deliver.
The design of the office space must go beyond functionally and form. It needs to feel good. Phone booths, collaborative areas and more are becoming a positive norm, but we need to continue pushing the benchmark to create spaces that provide time. Time to think, time to feel calm and time to re-charge.
Although games facilities are often considered as wind down spaces, they have a different purpose. They champion community interaction, providing a fun distraction from taxing work activities, rather than a quiet contemplative moment alone to reset. Creating places that enable people to collect their thoughts can help them to address challenges in new ways. These are not spaces to hide, but places to hit pause.
Biophilic office design and transparency will play a prominent role in these types of spaces. Sound therapy, calming textures and colours may also help to enhance the experience. These spaces will draw from across the human senses to calm the brain, enabling it to engage in clear, composed thought processes. They help remove the everyday clutter. Technology-free areas may support this further by providing respite from the social and digital aspects of life.
Wi-fi free zones are becoming more commonplace. In our New York office, we’ve created an intimate, cosy, technology-retreat zone. It provides a step-change from the buzz of the main office. Working with Trend Micro in Singapore, the “Japan Room” is dedicated to serenity and wellbeing and devoid of video-conferencing technology. Diageo’s “Conservatory” at its APAC headquarters overlooks a peaceful roof terrace and city park. It provides a hidden corner for retreat and rejuvenation for tired travellers.
By adding spaces for rest and rejuvenation, we can encourage moments of clarity that support wellness and enhance the quality of work.
Raquel Machado is a Design Associate at M Moser’s Amsterdam office.