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Places People Prefer

The Office
Agenda

Wellbeing

10 creative approaches to wellbeing

A recent roundtable on wellbeing at work explored a variety of ways in which workplace design can influence and encourage creativity

In May, Creative Review hosted a roundtable discussion that addressed how creative businesses can make their workplaces better for staff. A wide range of ideas around the general themes of wellbeing and collaboration were discussed. Here are 10 of the most interesting suggestions:

1) Encourage interaction

Video game developers Lift London recently moved from Soho to a new office in Paddington and took the opportunity to change working practices. Studio Head Lee Schuneman explained that the company is giving staff more opportunities to work from home, with the office becoming a “honeypot” where the best interactions with colleagues and collaborators can take place. The space has been optimised to encourage this, becoming less about focused work and more about conversation.

2) Ask people what they want

Another company that is relocating is visual effects specialist Framestore, which is deliberately moving to an “untrendy” part of London, according to CEO Sir William Sargent. He said this is an opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper. But in order to ensure it works, you have to make it clear that the move will enable people to do things they currently can’t, and he’s an advocate of surveying staff regularly to find out their opinions.

3) Let them fill in the gaps

Matthew Hook, Chief Strategy Officer at media group Dentsu Aegis, agreed that, rather than defining a space in a new office, companies should ask staff how they would like to use it. He said that people need to be able to fill in the gaps for themselves, and this helps to fulfil their desire to customise and create.

The workplace, and the space around it, can encourage sociability

4) Act like a village

Ad agency Havas UK has taken this idea a stage further by setting up a ‘village council’ which features everyone from management to part-time staff. The company’s UK Chief People Officer, Nicola Forristal, described how this gives people a voice and encourages groups to form to look after particular areas of the office.

5) Create sociable spaces

Matt Webster, British Land’s Head of Wellbeing and Futureproofing, pointed out that one of the biggest indicators of wellbeing is the absence of ‘social isolation’; daily contact with friends and family, and even incidental contact with strangers, can combat this. The workplace, and the space around it, can encourage this sociability. Webster cited the central staircase in British Land’s York House HQ, which was introduced to get people moving around and encourage interaction, and also the external spaces at the Paddington Central campus, where benches and other features encourage casual encounters.

6) Be playful

Interior design expert Oliver Heath talked about what kinds of space make us feel good and enable us to flourish, particularly with reference to the natural world. He cited Granary Square, part of the redevelopment of London’s King’s Cross area, as a playful place, full of natural light and close to water, and said that in such a relaxed setting, people are more likely to start up conversations, even with strangers. This kind of playfulness can be beneficial in the workplace.

7) Make some noise

Schuneman asserted that people are more likely to communicate with each other in an office where there is some noise than in one that is largely silent. Lift London’s office has speakers playing music playlists, and there’s even a piano and a drum kit. Schuneman said that, although these may seem like a gimmick, they do get used a lot and are seen as a way for people to express themselves within the context of the workplace.

People need to be able to fill in the gaps for themselves, and this helps to fulfil their desire to customise and create

8) Be part of the community

One way of making a company part of a local community is to make it more visible – literally. Webster said that anyone walking past an office should be able to see activity (not just a large, sterile reception area), that people are working in there, and that the working space is integrated into the streetscape rather than just functioning above it.

9) Create a lively reception

Heath extended this idea, noting that there is a movement for entrance spaces to be used more fluidly, and citing the example of people using coffee shops as places to work. Forristal mentioned that at advertising agency BBH, a row of long wooden desks would routinely be used by clients, and over time this turned the space into a kind of networking area that created a buzz.

10) Make it flexible

Araceli Camargo, Director of Lab at consultancy The Centric Lab, spoke about the need for “cognitive flexibility” – a mental space where we are comfortable enough to take in what someone is saying – in order to collaborate successfully. So, ideally, companies would create an “enriched environment” where people can choose spaces to find their own sense of relaxation. Camargo suggested that flexibility is at the heart of maintaining wellbeing in the workplace; giving people choices could increase both their happiness and their potential.

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Tagged in: COLLABORATION, COMMUNITY, CREATIVITY, DESIGN, WELLBEING

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