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Living and working WELL

03 Oct 2019  |  People  |  Productivity

Wellbeing has rightly become a key workplace priority, and the easiest way to check that your office is up to scratch is to see how your office compares to the WELL Building Standard. Based on years of research, the standard identifies seven factors that need to be addressed for a building to achieve WELL certification: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

Is a WELL certificate worth the trouble? Surveys suggest there is a positive effect. CBRE Group’s global corporate headquarters in Los Angeles, for example, was the first commercial office building to be WELL-certified. In a post-occupancy survey, employees reported that the new space had a beneficial effect on their health and wellbeing: 83% of employees felt more productive, 74% reported a positive impact on their business performance, and 93% said they would not go back to the old way of working.

We’re proud of the part we played in helping Deloitte’s London HQ at 1 New Street Square become the largest WELL Gold-certified commercial interior in the world. We supplied over 27,000 pieces of furniture, 99% of which complied with the WELL Standard. But how, exactly, does furniture contribute to a WELL building?

It’s obvious that furniture contributes to the fitness and comfort aspects of the WELL Standard. In terms of fitness, it prescribes workspaces that reduce sedentary behaviour. Specifying products such as sit-stand desks or high-level tables and stools for discussions and collaboration encourage people to stand and move about.

Treadmill desks are an option for facilitating exercise at work. It’s estimated that working from a treadmill desk at 1mph for two hours a day will burn more than 1,000 calories throughout the working week.

For comfort, the standard urges use of well-designed ergonomic furniture to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders. In this age of agile working and hot desking, fewer people can lay claim to their ‘own’ desk and chair in the office. User-configurable products such as height-adjustable desks and adjustable chairs are therefore increasingly de rigueur. ‘Active seating’ options are an innovation allowing for freer movement while seated.

The comfort category also covers acoustic solutions to suppress distracting noise. This might include mobile acoustic screens and partitions as well as booths and seating products that allow for peace and privacy.

Less obviously but no less important, furniture can contribute to the requirements of the air category.

This is all about maintaining air quality and reducing the prevalence of VOCs – but it takes expert knowledge of the composition of the product and how it was produced. Trusting to the word of a manufacturer or some ticked boxes on a checklist is not enough. The furniture consultant must be able to reassure the client that in terms of fabrics, glues, even powder coatings, the item will not compromise air quality. Even plastic wrapping can be an issue – unwrapping a quantity of furniture in the workplace can flood the space with VOCs.

Finally, ‘mind’ urges a nurturing of the innate human-nature connection. This can be assisted by specifying furnishings in natural colours, finishes and patterns, perhaps with organic curves. Furniture that accommodates planting, such as open shelving or planters, supports the greenery that helps to lift people’s spirits.

Mind also specifies ‘occupant comfort and spatial familiarity’ through the provision of spacious, familiar and aesthetically appealing spaces. Filling such spaces with informal pieces like squashy sofas, armchairs with cushions, playful pouffes, beanbags, coffee tables and display shelves helps create the sense of wellbeing and comfort we all associate with home.

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