According to “Wellbeing: A Bottom Line Issue” in Steelcase 360, IBM’s 2012 global CEO study revealed the need for companies to become “more collaborative, communicative, creative, flexible, and ultimately more innovative.”

To foster these characteristics, the article said, organizations have to focus on employee wellbeing. Creativity happens best when employees can choose the work settings that best meet their physical, cognitive and psychological needs.

Did you catch that definition of employee wellbeing? It’s not just physical wellness—ergonomic workstations, smoking cessation programs and employee fitness challenges—but it encompasses the whole person, including mental and emotional health. Wellbeing even extends to having a sense of purpose at work.

This month on the Coalesse blog, we’ll look at various facets of wellbeing in the workplace—and what designers can do to enhance worker wellbeing through space design.

Choice and control

A key to workers’ wellbeing is their ability to choose where, how and when they do their work in the office. As they tackle different types of tasks throughout the day, people need access to different types of work settings.

“When you have the best place to do your job, it helps you to be more efficient, less stressed and more satisfied with your job,” said Catherine Gall, a research director for Steelcase WorkSpace Futures. “That’s a real boost to wellbeing.”

Because tasks and workloads shift month to month, day to day and even hour to hour, the best place to work one morning may not be the best place the next. Likewise, the work setting you need when you’re leading a team meeting is different from what you need when you’re making a private phone call or preparing a presentation.

Giving workers choice—allowing them to move among a variety of work settings—relieves the physical and psychological stress that comes from working in a space that doesn’t fit the task. The wrong setting, whether it’s too loud, too cramped or not properly equipped, can block the creative process, which thrives with a clear, calm mind.

Get up and move

The open office plan, while great for collaboration and communication, can sometimes get in the way of worker productivity. This is why ancillary spaces—enclaves, breakout spaces, patios, conference rooms and work cafés—are so important. They provide spaces tailor-made for focus and rejuvenation or social connection.

And let’s not underestimate the mental and physical benefits workers gain from getting up and moving around. We’ve all read about the perils of too much sitting.

Speaking of which, choice in the workplace extends to seating options too. Designers should keep in mind the expanding variety of postures today’s office workers are using, and provide a range of environments where people can sit, stand, rock, lean, recline, perch and so on.

By providing a variety of well-planned work settings, organizations go a long way toward supporting people’s physical, cognitive and emotional needs.

Click through the slideshow above to see a sampling of varied office spaces that support employee wellbeing.

Designed for creative collaboration, the studio area of the Coalesse showroom at NeoCon 2017 featured a custom island incorporating the Exponents Credenza and custom Enea café stools. Giving employees access to different types of work settings promotes their wellbeing.