In our third and final part on designing for wellbeing, Rosie Haslem, Director at spacelab_, highlights the importance of community
What sort of workplaces should we be creating to support physical wellbeing and mental health? This was the topic of conversation in the ‘Health Workers’ panel discussion I spoke at (chaired by OnOffice’s Editor), as part of January’s [email protected] digital summit.
As Director of research and strategy at spacelab_, a design and architecture studio with a research-driven, human-focussed approach to creating spaces, my work is all about understanding what people want and need, in order to design the very best space for them – and of course for their health.
What do we need to consider when creating working environments that support physical and mental wellbeing? In addition to providing spaces for collaboration and providing a rich choice of settings for people to work from, our workplaces need to help us build community. Being part of a community gives people a sense of identity, belonging, and often a wider purpose.
Research has shown that feeling connected and supported by a community can help build resilience – and enhance our mental and physical health. Workplaces are so key to building culture and unity across an organisation, and giving people a shared purpose in helping achieve the wider mission of the business. For many, this sense of community has faded whilst working from home throughout the pandemic.
Over the past 12 months, many of us have been remote from colleagues (as well as from friends and family), so we’ve been lacking most of our usual social connections. And therefore, we’ve been lacking the social support systems so critical to our wellbeing. Our future workplaces will need to work hard to rebuild those connections and nurture strong communities of resilient, healthy people.
However, for many, one upside of lockdown has been the discovery of community in a wider sense. Whilst working remotely, people have been connecting with others beyond their company, in their local community. From getting to know our neighbours and volunteering to helping people who are shielding, to shopping locally and supporting local businesses. These things were initially driven by necessity, but many of us have found a new sense of identity, purpose, and joy in investing in that community. And many will want to continue doing so.
And this is something that we were very aware of at spacelab_. Over the summer, as we were rethinking what our office should be going forward, we realised we wanted to create a space for our own working community, but also one that was open to a wider community. For us to feel a part of our local area, and also to give our neighbours a space to come to.
So, we turned our office into ‘the depot_’, a neighbourhood ‘culture club’ for like-minded people to come and use – to have a coffee, grab some food, buy some art, and do some work away from home. It’s a place where (once lockdown lifts!), we’ll be able to come together as a spacelab_ community, and to also forge new relationships with our wider community.
After a period of so much social isolation, it’s more important than ever that we focus on creating places where people can establish and nurture connections. Where people can feel supported. And where people can develop a sense of purpose and resilience, and being part of something greater.
Image by Ray Okudzeto