Thought Leadership

Flexibility In Design: Turning A Workplace Into An Outdoor Oasis

While the pandemic uprooted nearly every industry, the one most changed is arguably the workplace. Workers traded in their cubicles and water cooler chats for their couches and furry friends. And while companies are enticing their employees to come back to the office with hybrid work schedules and the return of happy hours, the physical workplace experience must be changed in order to create an environment that feels comfortable, enhances creativity, improves well-being and supports an overall positive outlook at a time when stress levels among U.S. adults are at an all-time high.
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May 13 2022

Flexibility In Design: Turning A Workplace Into An Outdoor Oasis

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Nature has a profound impact on creating a happy, healthy and productive work environment, which is more important than ever as companies are looking for ways to entice employees back to the office. Enhancing the outdoors to create more workable areas and bringing the outdoors in with biophila and natural light are ways to improve quality of life in a workplace environment and promote flexibility in a formerly traditional office.

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Access to natural light

While biophilia can ease stress and anxiety, access to sunlight is proven to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting your mood and helping you feel calm and focused, as published by Heathline. Enlarging windows in an office to allow for more sunshine peering in or shifting workspaces for closer access to windows and the outdoors can invoke feelings of happiness and spark creativity and motivation.

If increased natural light is not an option, even just changing the light bulbs from fluorescent to LED can mimic the same effects that natural light gives. Even just a small change in lighting can dramatically increase one’s mood and productivity.

There’s a myriad of design strategies that office leaders can implement into their workplace that will help increase the happiness of their employees. Nature is a grounding element that regulates the nervous system, invoking feelings of calmness and relaxation. For example, The Commons at Lake Hearn has unique features that include eco-friendly rain gardens, clean air filtration, a healthy restaurant with outdoor seating and WiFi-connected greenspaces for working, meeting and gathering.

Other strategies to consider include improving air quality or pursuing certifications like WELL, which according to IWBI, companies use to prioritize the health and safety of their people, maximize real estate value and optimize the human and social capital performance of their business. The WELL Health-Safety Rating focuses not only on physical changes, but on core areas including cleaning and sanitization procedures, emergency preparedness programs, health service resources, air and water quality management and stakeholder engagement and communication.

As workers return to in-person collaboration at the office, managers must consider the environment they’re returning to. Coming out of the pandemic, health and wellness is a top priority and flexibility is key to ensuring longevity and happiness among the next generation of workers.

by Brian Parker, AIA, LEED AP