As Tarkett’s research shows, growing swathes of the world’s workforce are struggling to ‘switch off’. Employers are faced with a health and wellbeing dilemma as they consider how to deal with the downsides of hyperconnectivity, while being thankful - and increasingly reliant - on the technology that’s helped businesses survive one of the most challenging times in recent history.
As we come back together in our places of work, there will be careful balances that need to be struck.
The extraordinary bank of awe-inspiring case studies, captured in our Storeys journal, sets out imaginative ways in which architects, designers and workplace specialists have solved this dilemma. Creating greater connections with nature, tailoring sensory experiences and integrating technology that complements - not distracts - in spaces designed for quietude and focus.
Curated by my future trends agency, FranklinTill, on behalf of Tarkett, a whole section of this immense body of work hones in on the need for human-centric places to be nourishing: nurturing mind, body and spirit to promote holistic health and happiness.
Interestingly, while sterility may be the overriding concern amid the public health crisis, reverting to highly clinical environments to promote psychological safety could compromise the subconscious need for nourishment. Surroundings that enable us to feel connected and a part of something after the separation, fear and sense of helplessness we’ve all experienced at some point over the course of 2020.
‘Storeys: The Worklife issue’ explores touch as one of the greatest human connectors.
Explaining that it’s the first sense to develop in the womb and how we use hugs, kisses - and even handshakes - to express our common humanity. While human touch is obviously limited in the workplace, and obviously more so now, designers have a key role to play in channelling a sense of tactility through form, material and sensory design.
This is a sentiment echoed by Michelle Ogundehin, designer and former Editor-in-Chief, of Elle Decoration UK:
“We must be very wary about reverting to sterility in reaction to the threat of disease. The importance of being surrounded by objects, furnishings, finishes and materials that have personal meaning brings its own boost to wellbeing.”
To this end, spaces must adapt and cater for greater holistic wellbeing in the long term and not focus on only short immediate defensive measures. Working alongside my insights team at FranklinTill, we extracted three key concepts that commercial design can tap into, to transform bland and uninspiring offices with mindful adaptations that both ground and motivate:
Outside-in: Connecting and rewilding the workplace - blurring the boundaries between inside and out and making use of super natural materials
Sensory sensibilities: Creating spaces of privacy and calm that allow people to retreat, recharge and reconnect in highly tactile environments
Optimised wellbeing: Using technology in a quiet and soft way to create a sense of wonder and escape that complements the body’s natural rhythm
These themes are explored, in-depth, alongside two other visually stimulating strands to supporting employees’ emotional, social, mental and physical needs. Also setting out the changing workplace in respect of culture and community (the notion of ‘The Convivial Workplace’) and the ability to adapt seamlessly for an increasingly diverse workplace (by embracing fluidity), Storeys is a beautiful compilation of functional, healthy and harmonising solutions - brought together with a thought-provoking narrative that shines a new light on a distinct set of commercial design challenges.
But, right now, there is a real need to refresh the workforce. And the most revitalising and nourishing workplaces are built by thinking long-term, holistically and ‘super natural’.
Here’s a snapshot of how we can creatively address this heightened need, as outlined in the Storeys Journal.
Sensory sensibility toolkit:
Focus on haptic and sensorial qualities – employ natural and intrinsically textural materials such as wood, wool, unfinished plaster and stone
A sense of calm is vital to focus and productivity – create an honest, essentialist and pared-back aesthetic with tonal colours and smooth, restful forms
Embrace the subtle textural qualities of soft carpeting in neutral tones to emphasise a sense of calm
Consider multisensory tactility – include acoustic treatment with cocooned areas and panelling
The Great Indoors Newsletter
Latest insights, delivered straight to your inbox