BLOG: A well-rounded approach to office design

There is no escaping ‘wellbeing’ and ‘wellness’ as buzzwords at the moment. But far from being a fad, wellness is proving to be an important consideration for architects and designers.

The office sector in particular is embracing wellness and designing offices with workers’ wellbeing front of mind. When you consider the fact that the average office worker will spend more waking hours in the office than anywhere else each day, it is clear how impactful office design can be on their health and wellbeing.

There is a link between staff wellbeing and productivity so considering how staff will interact with the building is vital to create a pleasant working environment where staff can thrive. This understanding underpins the WELL Building Standard which was devised by the International WELL Building Institute in the USA to provide a single ‘wellness’ rating for a given building. Put simply, it addresses how offices should perform to improve the health and wellbeing of users.

It’s a flexible building standard, drawn from studies into the impact of the built environment on human health and can be applied to existing buildings and new builds, unlike BREEAM which can only rate new builds. The WELL Building Standard measures a building’s attributes and the impact they have on users’ health and wellbeing across seven core concepts:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Nourishment
  • Light
  • Fitness
  • Comfort
  • Mind

Accessibility and Privacy

Providing an adequate number of easily accessible toilets for all staff and visitors first and foremost is a must. Ensuring disabled washroom facilities are created to the same design as other washrooms in the rest of the building is a good way to create an inclusive environment.

Accessibility goes beyond providing wide cubicle doors and low level sinks. It’s equally important that accessories such as cubicle locks and grabrails are DDA compliant too. In order to meet DDA regulations, there needs to be a good level of contrast with a minimum difference in Light Reflective Value (LRV) of at least 30 points between washroom accessories and the surface they’re fitted to in order to stand out to users who may be partially sighted.

Installing fully enclosed full height, floor-to-ceiling toilet cubicles or self-contained superloos not only ensures complete privacy for end users but also helps create a home-from-home feel.

Cleanliness

It goes without saying that washrooms must be kept clean, tidy and well-maintained. But this doesn’t need to mean a huge cleaning burden for facilities managers. There is a wide choice of materials on the market which offer anti-bacterial properties, making them hygienic and easy to clean.

Duct panelling systems which can be installed behind the toilets, urinals and under vanities, are also designed to ensure washrooms remain clean and hygienic, as well as hiding any unsightly pipework. Such systems allow ease of access for future maintenance or repair, whether reactive or planned.

In addition bespoke vanity units with integrated waste bins, handbag shelves and infrared sensor operated taps can also help to ensure washrooms remain hygienically clean, making them pleasant places for office workers.

Fitness

The WELL Building standard also encompasses fitness as one of its core principles, requiring offices to supply opportunities for physical activity. With more people cycling into work, taking a fitness class or hitting the gym at lunchtime, offering staff shower and changing facilities is an ideal way to encourage office workers to move more and improve their overall wellbeing.

Once seen as a luxury, staff shower and changing facilities are fast becoming standard for both new build and refurbished office buildings. They are often designed to feel more like a luxury health club but with small differences making them perfect for office workers. Things such as lockers designed to accommodate a suit or extra-large shower cubicles with space to get dressed to offer more privacy, both ensure changing areas meet the demands of office workers.

There’s a huge amount of competition in the commercial sector with new offices springing up all the time in and around London. Ensuring office facilities such as washrooms and shower areas are designed with staff wellbeing in mind is the perfect way to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

By Trevor Bowers, director at Washroom Washroom