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Understanding the Changing Needs of the Office Workers : How Health and Wellbeing of Employees can Increase their Productivity

By Katelyn Nigus and Vibhavari Jani

Abstract Today, many businesses do not spend their financial resources on creating a healthier work environment which in turn, affects the physical health of their workers. This short sightedness results in the reduction of productivity and in the long run, profitability of the business. Fortunately, many corporations are starting to see the correlation between the long hours their employees spend sitting in the office and how it affects their well-being, including work injuries related to carpal tunnel syndrome and chronic backaches. With back pain being the most common injury, about “one-third of adults in the U.S. experienced severe back pain in a three-month period� (Health-Positive Office, 2013). While some corporations are making strides to bring healthier desk habits to the workplace, others want to find different design options to help with their employee’s health. This poses the question, what design aspects or benefits help promote wellbeing to the user and in turn their productivity?

What is Wellbeing? • Steelcase researchers define wellbeing as a holistic approach to mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing to their employees. (Building Wellbeing, 2013) • Workers are being plagued by stress, fatigue, and illness that are intruding on their day-to-day productivity. • With so much of their time at work, it can create sedentary habits within the workplace and turn them into a literal “working stiff”.

Wellbeing Statistics • 36% of people today say the spend more time working than anything else, even sleep which was at 32% • The average sick day costs a company about $348 in lost productivity. • 27 million working days were lost due to work related illness and workplace injury. • 2.3 billion adults will be overweight by 2015, predicts the World Health Organization. (Wellbeing: Bottom Line, 2014)

Why is Wellbeing Important? • High level of wellbeing means that people are better able to respond in difficult situations, innovate, and constructively engage with other people and the world around them. • Having better wellbeing means they are also healthier, which reduces illness related costs. • Overall enhanced wellbeing should have a sense of feeling healthier when they leave the office than when they walked in that morning.

Research Methods • Literature Reviews

Through these findings it has helped the authors in determining what wellbeing is providing in the corporate environment and how to make wellbeing be even more exceptional in the office. Findings are shown in the main body of the paper.

• Precedent Study

Observational research was obtained looking through floor plans and isometric views of spaces to resolve which spaces were more open and collaborative, and which spaces were more private and personal.

• Surveys

In using surveys the authors wanted to nail down pertinent data on what is working in the office environment along with what employees want from their employers.

Findings Literature Review According to the National Small Business Association (NSBA), 93% of small businesses say the health of their employees is important to their businesses bottom line.

60 percent of small-business owners said they believe that employee health and wellness programs are worth the investment. Unfortunately, nearly the identical amount, about 58 percent, also said there is not enough information available to small business about implementing wellness programs. (Workplace Wellness Program, 2013)

Status of Health and Wellbeing Programs

Top Concerns of Employee Wellbeing

As expected, the larger small businesses - those with 50-100 employees - in the study sample had a higher rate (27 percent) of offering a health and wellness program. Health and wellness programs were defined as “an initiative aimed at encouraging employees to make healthier choices such as getting preventative care, eating right and exercising.� (Workplace Wellness Program, 2013)

Health and Wellness Programs most Likely to Invest in

Findings Cont. Literature Review • Within the newest issue of Steelcase 360, it is said that “the workplace could be a powerful agent in providing an environment in which people can thrive, which would in turn allows us to build the kind of resilient and agile organization we want it to be.” (Wellbeing: Bottom Line, 2014) • A workplace designed with wellbeing in mind can be a source of inspiration to achieve the purpose that drives the organizations reason for being.

• If organizations want to implement wellbeing in the workplace effectively, it is important that executives send a very clear message to their employees that they care about each person’s overall wellbeing and that they want to be a part of helping it improve over time. • In order to attain wellbeing at work it is about creating and sustaining a healthy physical and mental state over time in a supportive physical and social environment. No single space can do this alone. (Wellbeing: Bottom Line, 2014)

• We must go beyond the basics, making sure the workplace is ergonomically responsible, of course, but we also must respond to other employee needs because you spend a large chunk of your life at the office and it has a big impact on your work/life balance. • DesignTex designer Kimberle Frost says it best that “Wellbeing is part of our job as designers, to use materials, color and textures to promote a happier, healthier environment.” (Wellbeing: Bottom Line, 2014)

Findings Cont. Precedent Study: Steelcase Headquarters • Palette of Place: an array of different workspace choices for different work modes. • Palette of Posture: changing posture becomes physically energizing, mentally stimulating and helps people stay refreshed and engaged. • Palette of Presence: supports the different ways people communicate and share information. (Building Wellbeing, 2013)

• Six Dimensions of Wellbeing • 1 OPTIMISM: fostering creativity and innovation • 2 MINDFULNESS: fully engaged • 3 AUTHENTICITY: really yourself • 4 BELONGING: connecting to others • 5 MEANING: a sense of purpose • 6 VITALITY: get-up-and-go

Floorplan of Steelcase Headquarters depicting levels of used space

Design Solutions Project Studios:

• An immersed, shared space that supports project teams and small groups in analog and digital collaboration, content sharing and idea generation. Well-appointed to meet user needs around tools, hospitality, amplification and posture options.


• Informal and social settings to support connections, build trust and provide nourishment. Provides opportunities to connect socially and hosts mobile workers graciously to facilitate a sense of belonging, promote healthy professional relationships and bridge presence disparities.

Nomadic Camp:

• An area for mobile users with a variety of settings that welcome and accommodate focus and collaboration. A palette of place and posture options provides solutions for mobile and geographically disparate users to feel a sense of belonging, community and connection to the brand and culture. Shared spaces welcome users and allow for personalization and self-selection, giving a sense of pride and temporary ownership.

Private Office:

• An owned space that provides des the ability to express one’s self and display play personal items and professional artifacts. cts. Users are empowered to utilize the space in the best way to support their individual dividual need through amplification, making g work visible on the walls or providing solitude ude for focus.


• An informal place that enables people to be alone with others nearby or have informal interactions within the hum of surrounding activity, provides great views to the outdoors and displays of organizational artifacts.

Innovation Suite:

• A space to fine-tune imaginations spark creativity and foster critical thinking. Inspire, engage and support evolving innovation processes and serve as a symbolic and tangible expression of a company’s commitment to a culture of innovation.


• Small, private spaces that provide respite, focus and rejuvenation. Easily accessible with good visual signaling.

Resident Neighborhood :

• Owned individual space with supportive tools and personal control. Users can personalize their workstations and adjust for comfort. The overall zone supports a range of user needs, from focused work to collaboration to touch-down tasks, allowing the worker to choose where they feel most productive.

Precedent Study: Steelcase Headquarters Design solutions provide: • Face-to-face contact with colleague • Levels of enclosure •Different work options • Multiple posture choices (sitting, standing, perching, reclining, etc.) • Choice and control throughout the work environments

Findings Cont. Health and Wellness Survey • The survey was intended for employees from corporate offices to rate their overall health and work environment to see what changes need to be made to their work environment. 74 people took the survey and these are the results.

How often do you get backaches or stiffness in joints from sitting and working on the computer?

How long do you take breaks and move around the office?

How would you rate your overall health?

How important is exercise to you?

Would you exercise more if your company provided an at home gym or wellness program?

Are you satisfied with your workplace environment?

Conclusion By implementing design solutions shown from the precedent study as well as gaining information about what employers and employees want “healthwise” from the company, we can then create a work environment that is the full embodiment of better wellbeing. The next step in making sure this environment can work is to do separate test environments on just design solutions and one on benefit changes, then do a combined test to see if they work well together. With the new knowledge of what employee’s want, we can now create an even better office environment everyone is happy to work in.

Works Cited Building Wellbeing into the workplace. 360. Retrieved 10/14/13 from Http:// The Health-Positive Office: The Revitalizing Effect of Ergonomic Tools and Training. Herman Miller Solution Essay. Retrieved 11/6/2013 from Http:// ce.html Workplace Wellness Programs in Small Business: Impacting the Bottom Line. NSBA/Humana. Retrieved 11/6/2013 from Http:// Wellbeing: A Bottom Line Issue. 360, Issue 67. Retrieved 1/13/2014 from Photos Provided From: The Next Office: Why CEOs are Paying Attention. 360, Issue 63. Retrieved 9/25/2013 from Http:// ce-why-ceos-are-paying-attention/ Wellbeing @ Work. 360, Issue 61. Retrieved 9/25/2013 from Http:// Wellbeing: A Bottom Line Issue. 360, Issue 67. Retrieved 1/13/2014 from Graphs provided by: Workplace Wellness Programs in Small Business: Impacting the Bottom Line. NSBA/Humana. Retrieved 11/6/2013 from Http:// Health and Wellbeing of Employees Survey. (2013). (Graphs illustrate better wellbeing in the workplace). Retrieved from Https://

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Understanding the Changing Needs of the Office Worker