You started your company Enrichers to help companies to improve well-being through design. Now, you’re working as an innovation manager at Prooff with the same purpose. Why is well-being such an important topic for you?
“When you dive into research on body movement and stimulative environments, you’ll find out there is a lot to gain in designing our indoor spaces and furniture. To me, well-being is not very important in itself. But I do consider it a missed opportunity if we wouldn’t create designs that make us experience our daily lives more dynamically and vividly. Especially when you consider how fast technology is changing everyday life into something static and boring.”
What are the biggest challenges you found that companies face when they’re looking to innovate for well-being?
“There is a need to make our environments more efficient. Digital communication make our bodies 'lose their function', making us need to 'use' our bodies in our leisure time. Often, people need to perform physical activities such as sports before or after work to recover from their time spent on a computer at work. If we want to further innovate, we can only improve when we acknowledge our bodies are part of our system and do influence mental performance. The main question is: how can we connect human physical and psychological functioning to the use of our environments? A 100% match between people and their environments will allow us to use the energy we have and keep us in good shape, without having the need to compensate through sports, diets, and training.”
Pictured: The Prooff PhoneBox. The box, created by Axia Design, offers a sense of privacy in the office, either to make a phone call, prepare for an upcoming meeting or gather one's thoughts. It encourages you to take a break from sitting at your desk to get a quick office stretch.
If we want to match employees with their environments at work, where should we begin? The companies, the employees, the architect/interior designers, the suppliers?
"It seems there is a lot of attention on the topic of well-being nowadays, but too little imagination to understand how to meet well-being goals at work. The causes are bad company culture, leadership, contracts with landlords that provide little space for adjustments and big furniture firms that invest too little in out-of-the-box innovation. There is also a knowledge gap on neuroscience within design and architectural education institutes. Besides that, the potential of a physical space is not something many companies are aware of. So, creating well-being in the workspace is a combination of creating awareness, interdisciplinary education and increasing investment from suppliers.”
What area (buildings, interior, corporate culture, HR, facilities, technology...) has the biggest impact on creating more well-being at work?
"The biggest impact can be generated by the board of a company. They’re in charge to decide for coherence between their own health & sustainability goals, their contracts with real estate firms and interior design. The board should make sure that the company culture facilitates space for employees to behave according to their physical and psychological needs. The HR department should get the responsibility to guide the company through this process together with facility management (which is often outsourced). Further, technology should be acquired for the primary goal of optimizing the performance of employees; optimizing the system, more profit or saving money should not have similar importance for being able to succeed.”
Besides furniture, what suggestions would you recommend to improve well-being at work, based on your findings?
“Climate and lighting, plants and accessibility to outdoor spaces (architecture) are very important. Furthermore, companies should take a second look at their culture and facilitate challenges and training within job functions to keep employees mentally stimulated. It is important to understand the motivation of people. Are they intrinsically motivated or not? Employee motivation signifies how much impact you can have on their well-being at work. Lastly, a work schedule based on circadian rhythms could improve well-being too, especially for employees that have irregular working hours or those who have to work in night shifts."
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