Colliers Survey Sheds Some Light on Workplace Wellness

A new report from Colliers reveals the design features that employees value in their work environment.

By Gail Kalinoski

Keith Perske, executive managing director of Workplace Innovations for Colliers International
Keith Perske, executive managing director of Workplace Innovations for Colliers International

Offering more natural light in offices received unanimous support from commercial real estate executives surveyed by Colliers International for a white paper on employee wellness efforts.

When Colliers recently reached out to 200 of its North American client firms of various sizes and sectors to learn which design features contributed the most to employee wellness, allowing more natural light deeper in work spaces received a whopping 100 percent response. Ergonomics tied with day lighting according to the white paper, called “Employee Wellness: How Does Your Workplace Make You Feel?”

The global commercial real estate services firm asked the survey respondents if their workplaces actively incorporated one or more of 14 design features known to contribute to wellness. Other design elements that workers value were offering restorative or quiet areas and reducing noise, which tied at 78 percent each, as well as having tall ceilings, installing glass interior walls and providing healthy food options, which each received support from 67 percent of respondents.

“The space that you choose for your company is the body language of your company. It says something about who you are before you even talk about who you are. Where you are located, how your space is designed, the colors and connections to your brand are all messages you send to your employees and your customers,” Keith Perske, executive managing director, Workplace Innovation for Colliers, and author of the white paper, said in an interview.

It is not surprising that access to natural light scored so high. The Colliers white paper notes that many studies have shown this is a “strong contributor to well-being.” Citing University of Minnesota research, the report states experiments done on the impact of higher ceilings in offices concluded they help people feel freer and more creative.

If their offices lack natural light, Perske told Commercial Property Executive companies can make “tweaks” in their spaces to bring more light to the interior, such as replacing some interior walls with glass walls. He also suggested “using the space differently,” perhaps by opening up the offices along the windows to all workers for common use rather than assigned space. Those might be the areas used for restorative spaces or quiet rooms, Perske noted.

Although the trend has been to create more wide-open spaces in offices, Perske said there has been effort recently to balance the space between open and enclosed. Depending on the nature of the business, he said recent office designs have featured 80 percent open space with 20 percent enclosed or 70 percent open with 30 percent closed.

Designs that encourage movement have also become a growing trend in more offices, but the Colliers report’s findings suggest that companies should invest in sit/stand desks rather than treadmill desks. Sit/stand desks had the support of 56 percent of respondents, while only 11 percent backed the use of treadmill desks in the office.

Perske said the sit/stand desks, which are adjustable, are good for circulation, focus and creativity. Making those kinds of office equipment available, “gives you choice, gives you control over your environment and those are things that encourage wellness,” he told CPE.

Encouraging walking, particularly through the use of attractive stairs, had the support of 56 percent of those answering the survey.

“This is understandable as the idea that movement – any movement – is beneficial to health and mental acuity is just now being supported by data,” according to the white paper.