Evidence Transcends Trend in Workplace Well-being

Sourced from Work Design Magazine

The Pullman Car Company, manufacturer of railroad cars, introduced one of the earliest examples of workplace fitness programs when, in 1879, it launched its own athletic association. In 1894, the President of NCR Corporation instituted morning and afternoon exercise breaks and ten years later built an employee gym. At the time, few of Pullman and NCR’s fellow corporate behemoths followed suit. Now, corporations not only embrace health and fitness programs, but have augmented these initiatives well beyond the realm of exercise. Today’s forward-thinking companies strive to affect their employees’ entire well-being through workplace design strategies that impact a range of dimensions including physical, mental, financial, and social.

Alongside the great enthusiasm for workplaces designed to support employee well-being is a degree of uncertainty about which tactics are fleeting fads and which are fact-based and enduring. In a dynamic market, it is easy to fall into bandwagon design decisions that follow fads. Alternatively, an evidence-based approach bases workspace design on peer-reviewed findings from research and practice. The result is a built environment more certain to have a substantial and enduring impact on the well-being of its occupants. Design certifications like Fitwel (health) and RELi (resilience) have grown from these evidence-based efforts. In turn, these facts and standards are informing the development of healthier and more productive work environments in organizations ranging from carpet tile manufacturer, Interface, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Research Labs and the AREA Research non-profit group are two programs at Perkins+Will, a global architecture and design firm, that partner with academia, industry experts and leading design associations to improve the built environment, and by extension, the lives of its inhabitants. Often, Perkins+Will offices are used as living labs to test products and approaches that claim to promote well-being. It is through the application of these evidence-based initiatives that we’re able to make independent design recommendations that go beyond the latest trends. From these efforts, fresh facts have emerged on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to designing corporate offices for well-being.

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