People before Place: Why designing for Wellbeing makes dollars and sense

Wellbeing design is becoming more and more prevalent as ongoing research is done to show what positive impacts in productivity and satisfaction can be achieved by considering people as well as place.

Until relatively recently, the marketplace has been focused on Activity Based Working and Agile which is all about the place and the activity people undertake, not the people that inhabit the space and perform the activity. This is what is informing our strategies along with the drivers:

·      How low can we get the sqm per person to?

·      How high can we drive the sharing ratio?

Utilisations studies that I’ve been involved with all sit within a similar rage - we know around 75% of meetings are 4 people or less and that typical average occupancy is 40-55% - lets focus on something else!

We know ABW isn’t working in some instances as it is being revisited to try and “fix” the issues. What if we create a new strategy?

Forget the “what do your team do and who do they need to sit next to?” of a typical workplace strategy mantra and welcome to the “who are your team and what lights their fire?” approach.

To design spaces that make people feel good we need to put them front and centre in the transformation process and look at each organisation’s unique make-up to determine what solution would best suit them.  In this way we can create communities that connect people and allow them to flourish.

Start thinking about what is the passion of the people that work with/for you and do they get to experience it at work? Get to know who you are designing for as people.

Think of a job you really liked and why you liked it – was it the people?  What was good about it and can you recreate that in your present workplace?

Change the question to ask Who are we? vs What do we do?

Who are your people? Are they introvert or extrovert? Do they identify with LGBTQI?

An introvert will experience the same space very differently to an extrovert. Some of the most common feedback in the feedback surveys for ABW or new way of working solutions is that noise is an issue and that there are more interruptions. All kryptonite to an introvert. If you have a business which by its nature attracts introverts, perhaps an open plan ABW solution isn’t for you. We need to take a more multi-faceted approach to how we are defining and designing workplaces.

Designing for people to feel supported and valued at work can be a seemingly simple move like providing toilets that cater for our gender identities or providing spaces for reflection and prayer for those that would benefit from them. Getting to know your people and what’s important to them will create better results for everyone.

Even though we are all unique we do share personality traits and by finding out more about who our people are and what makes them tick we can start to design spaces that uplift rather than disconnect.

Working with the HR team will help you unlock information from personality or psyche tests to show trends of the type of people your organisation is employing. Churn rates in certain teams will identify issues which you may be able to address. unless we add people into our strategy in a greater sense we will be doing the same thing ten years from now with the same results.

Once we know more about our people we can work with them on tailored solutions which will help to create connected communities.

Talk to your people, survey them – change the question sets to be more people focussed rather than about the place.

The proof of the success of designing for Health and Wellbeing will be found in the sick leave statistics, the churn rates, the staff retention and just how awesome your tribe gets as your vibe attracts in likeminded people to your community.

If you really want to know if it has been successful – look at the bottom line, people who feel valued and seen and have a sense of belonging at work will be making a positive impact on that!

To have truly present, alive and charged-up humans at work that will contribute positively we need to put People before Place.