You know how they say curiosity killed the cat? Well sometimes it gets you off your butt to ask a simple question.
Recently I’ve started reading the book, The Healthy Workplace Nudge by Miller Williams O’Neil, a recommendation by a friend. I’ve only just started but what I’ve digested so far is the imperative need for leaders to understand that they are the key factor in the positive or negative health of their employees. If you’re a leader it’s your responsibility to create a healthy work environment because even after they leave work the stresses of the day are carried with them.
The big picture so far …
We are in a snowball effect that starts with poor physical and mental conditions that leads to increased health bills to increased federal taxes trying to keep up with employee health benefits and finally to corporation layoffs to keep profitability up.
It’s a never ending cycle of stress related chronic illnesses, but before we go too far down that road let’s bring it back to the focus of our environment. As designers we hold the tools to directly affect a person’s emotional state. Yes we have that kind of power! Wait for it… and with it comes great responsibility. If you understand this connection then you also have the power to change it.
For example, the cubicle life, with its 5’ 6” heights and opaque walls does nothing to encourage office interaction or movement. Now compare this to a particular architecture firm in San Antonio and there isn’t an enclosed office or cubicle in sight. Instead there are desks whose only separation is a one foot tall clear partition; its primary purpose to contain ones explosion of paperwork. You might even walk into this firm and see a single man working by the front office window completely separate from the other sea of desks.
This is exactly what I saw upon entering the building and immediately thought this is what the book was talking about! Sitting, waiting for my 8:30 meeting I couldn’t help but keep looking at this man’s strange workplace by the window. What was the story behind this outlier? With a grunt of courage and a hope that I wasn’t about to be an unwanted distraction I decided, “why not, curiosity never killed the cat.” Right?
Coming to a stop at his standing desk, with my shoulders barely reaching the top, I offer my most cheerful, “hello!”
Turns out he was trying to create “office buzz” for this idea where we don’t always have to work in the same spot. Mobility, it’s the key to happiness! It represents freedom and creativity.
Yes, yes and yes! Here was the perfect example of an employee identifying a stress related problem, taking initiative and through a simple movement was going to create a healthier work environment.
This might not be the solution to all your problems, but breaking down your work day and identifying your stress triggers will allow you to take control of your happiness and health. Never settle with the normalcy of stress, accepting it as a part of life or using it as an indicator of a day’s success or productivity. Search for those solutions and change your life! Let’s live healthier!
I can’t wait to dive further into this book as the meaning of a healthy work environment transcends my architect’s perspective and becomes more than just design, but rather a complete reworking of the corporate world. This is an indicator of a great book. The ones that make us pause and think after each page or research topics after each chapter, the ones we can’t wait to share. As I continue on, hopefully this has made you want to start.