Charlie Russell-Jones, Leasing Manager at HB Reavis, discusses the importance of a people-first approach to design when creating healthy office spaces, spotlighting their Bloom Clerkenwell Project.
Healthy buildings are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the topic of the moment in commercial real estate. No matter which business I talk to, the need for the workplace to enhance employee’s health and wellbeing is an absolute priority. We believe achieving this comes down to designing and operating our workspaces through the eyes of the building community – focusing on exactly how people want to use and enjoy spaces to maximise their everyday wellbeing and happiness.
One obvious health objective is to get people moving.
Research shows that being more physically active reduces stress, boosts happiness, and fosters creativity and productivity. However, there is a real difference between just providing facilities to enable this and designing them in a way that people actively want to use them. It should be made as easy, convenient and enjoyable as possible to be able to build exercise and activity into the working day. For example, by elevating the bicycle storage to the ground floor at our Bloom Clerkenwell project, we have created a seamless journey straight from the Cycle Superhighway and into changing facilities that people will feel completely comfortable to use.
By breaking down the barriers that usually prohibit people from healthy activities we believe we can help to stimulate people’s fitness and health within a busy working day.
Our in-house fitness studio will offer a range of equipment and classes chosen by the building users and bookable through the building app. These design elements, amongst others, will help our ambition of achieving WELL Platinum at Bloom, which is no easy feat, and will be a blueprint for our upcoming schemes.
Research suggests that even just a visual connection with nature reduces blood pressure and heart rate and improves creative performance. We believe everyone should be able to use and enjoy outside green spaces as part of their working day. However, from my experience, terraces in London are generally under-designed, under-serviced and under-used. So, at Bloom, we have designed both private and communal terraces to be enjoyed all year round and for different purposes – whether that is an impromptu scenic meeting in the Garden Room, an al fresco yoga class or simply enjoying the fresh air and London view.
Integrated providers that design, build, and operate spaces have the opportunity to support healthy lifestyles beyond the design phase. In-house employee engagement platforms and concierge services can provide amenities and experiences tailored to the employees so they can get the most out of their day. At our new Worship Street project in Shoreditch, we will offer urban gardening courses on the roof terrace, HIIT sessions in the fitness studio, operate our own running club and even provide an e-bike rental scheme to our building community.
Technology also has a key role to play as we strive for a healthy working environment. Through our smart building platform, Symbiosy, we measure and display office environmental indicators, allowing employees to control their own working environment from fresh air to temperature and lighting. Our workspace consultancy team can also provide hands-on support to help interpret the data and optimise the working environment. This, for instance, means no more stuffy meeting rooms with unhealthy levels of CO2, but calibrating exactly the right conditions and configuration so you can be at your most energised and productive.
Ultimately, creating healthy spaces must take a people-first approach to design, amenity and service; focusing on what people want and need from their working day to optimise their physical and mental health.