A Room With a View

The case for healthy surroundings has never been stronger than it is today. In the face of rising healthcare costs and the need to get ever more productivity out of a workforce, it is wise to look to the design of an office environment to promote health and productivity.

Over the years, many interior designers have been influenced by “Feng Shui” when designing office spaces. The translation of “Feng Shui” is “Wind” and “Water,” and its practices seek to integrate one’s surroundings into harmony with the natural world. While some may scoff at philosophies such as this, there are recent scientific findings that support the benefits of “Feng Shui” in terms of healing; research has shown that views of nature and an appearance of open space, light and fresh air can help people become not only healthier, but also happier and more productive. While it is difficult to measure happiness, there are ways of measuring health in a clinical environment.

A groundbreaking study was published in 1984 by Roger S. Ulrich called “View through a window may influence recovery from surgery.” Dr. Ulrich postulated that patients in rooms with a view of trees or nature recovered more quickly than patients whose view consisted of other buildings or walls; something that Dr. Ulrich considered to be “common sense” had not been demonstrated by scientific study to be true. The study observed patients in the same hospital, receiving the same operation. The data compared was the length of stay and levels of pain relieving drugs used in the recovery process.  The results showed that those who had a view of a grove of trees used fewer drugs and were discharged almost a day earlier than those who had a view of a brick wall outside their windows.

Over time, healthcare facilities have altered their facility designs to incorporate more light and perceived outdoor space into their designs. Esther Sternberg in her book, “Healing Spaces,” is particularly eloquent at presenting the case for incorporating a form of an Asclepian spirit into the design of spaces to better promote well-being.

Similar results can be achieved in the workplace in the form of improved productivity and morale with just a few changes to the design of the workplace. Fortunately, it is neither difficult nor expensive to make small changes to the design of a workplace and see healthy and productive benefits.

Suggestions for healthy changes include:

  • Lowering cubicle height from the standard 67” height to 54” or even 39” in order to give workers the sense of a much bigger, open workspace
  • Creating flexible spaces that encourage comfortable collaboration among workers is great for knowledge-based offices
  • Attention to wall color can help make a space more soothing and, therefore, make workers more productive
  • Maximizing window space with views of nature
  • Avoiding the temptation to use a drop ceiling can help keep a sense of space by maintaining the height of a room

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