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monthlies OnOffice July9

29 Mar 2019

How to design a supportive office space for new mothers

Words by 

Linzi Cassels, design director at Perkins+Will, on the importance of creating office spaces tailored to the needs of new parents

As we take the time to appreciate our mums this Mother’s Day, we should also appreciate the hardships working mothers regularly go through. Over 74% of Britain’s mums are currently working, yet there is still a lack of thoughtful workplace design that accommodates women returning to work after maternity leave. Through my role at Perkins+Will – and thanks to the findings of our dedicated working group set up for new parents, carers and families – I’ve seen first-hand what design can bring to new mothers in the workplace.

PerkinsWills Miami office 21Perkins+Will’s Miami office

After having children, mothers find new routines that require a realignment of their work-life balance. With new mothers in an already difficult transition, companies should do all that they can to provide a supportive hand in welcoming them back to the office. Well-furnished amenities and programmes that assist with the challenges of being a working mother are crucial. It’s also important to include sanctioned mothers’ rooms in offices, which should be designed to be more homely and less corporate.

Customised mothers’ rooms should be comfortable and private spaces that allow breastfeeding mother employees to pump milk, two to three times in a working day. Essentials in these rooms include a table, chair, sink, refrigerator and an electrical outlet to connect the pump to. De-formalising and privatising mother rooms is key to creating a less stressful environment, and designing them to be user-friendly is crucial for their success.

To deliver wonderful spaces for working mothers, it’s about going beyond providing just the minimum amenities. Designers must piece together the functional and beautiful elements, to create a homely space that a new mother will enjoy being in. On a variety of our projects, we have endeavoured to create cosy spaces tailored to a mother’s experience, integrating features such as built-in sinks and separate fridges to store milk.

Pritzker Realty Offices in Chicago, interiors by P+WPritzker Realty Offices in Chicago, interiors by P+W

Specially designed places for mothers can further create a sense of inclusivity to encourage interactions between all, not solely returning mothers. By inputting places that prompt employee interaction, the return for new mums can be eased through creating a company-wide support network.

While a support network is vital for returning mothers, adding a space where these mothers can have a mindful break is paramount. A recent study published in the scientific journal Sleep shows that parents can remain sleep deprived for up to six years after their child is born. Knowing this informed our thinking during the design of some of Deloitte’s offices, including the firm’s new HQ at 1 News Street Square, where we created multi-purpose wellness rooms with a strong focus on supporting returning mothers and fathers.

As we take the time to honour the strong women who raised us this Mother’s Day, we must be more conscious of how our work and design can impact mothers in their office. By creating spaces that allow mums to continue to flourish we can give a gift that will last for years to come.

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