5 Commercial Office Enhancements to Boost Employee Wellbeing

As corporate America continues to become more and more socially conscious, protecting the mental and physical health of employees has emerged as a top initiative for many companies. While some of these wellbeing efforts revolve around finding ways for employees to balance work and life responsibilities or boosting employer-sponsored lifestyle benefits to give them access to professional counseling services and fitness subscriptions, a growing number of organizations are actually intentionally designing and renovating their workplaces with employee wellbeing as the focus. With this in mind, the following ideas are some effective commercial office enhancements for improving wellbeing at work.

1. Exterior Work Areas

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in bringing elements of nature indoors, with living walls and other biophilic elements making their way into commercial office spaces. However, the COVID-19 pandemic not only continued this trend but actually expedited a movement to create functional work areas in nature itself.

Through the use of architectural shading, durable furniture that can easily transition between interior and exterior spaces, and a reinforced technological infrastructure that ensures connectivity at all points around the building, companies are able to create innovative exterior workspaces that can allow employees to get some fresh air and social distance without negatively impacting productivity. 

2. Flooring Upgrade

Although the floors may not be the first element of a building that comes to mind when discussing wellbeing, flooring materials actually have a significant impact on indoor air quality. For example, while carpet is an affordable and relatively stylish material for commercial offices, its absorbent nature makes it a haven for storing dust and a threat for mold buildup should water be left standing. As a result, nonporous flooring solutions, such as polished concrete, luxury vinyl tile, or epoxy terrazzo, make for an elite choice in office spaces. These surfaces are extremely durable, easy to clean, and will not absorb any harmful contaminants, all important factors for ensuring indoor air quality of the building. 

3. Glass Wall Partitions

Many of the most popular office layout ideas in 2021 feature some sort of open floor plan. While this design promotes natural light flow, allows for greater customizability of space, and increases collaboration among the professional team, there are some times when it is in a company’s best interest to have some sequestered areas.

Not only are isolated office spaces sometimes necessary for private work functions, but, as the COVID-19 pandemic painfully reminded everyone, some physical separation can be necessary to keep professionals safe from communicable diseases. Rather than abandon the open floor concept, modular glass wall partitions can be an effective alternative for creating some needed isolation without significantly undermining the benefits of an open interior.

4. Decorative Ceiling Insulation

When working in a bustling commercial environment, managing noise can be a difficult challenge for office managers to tackle. Too much noise can not only be detrimental to employee performance, but studies show that it can also cause some adverse health effects, such as hypertension, headaches, and anxiety. 

With fewer walls and doors in modern spaces to serve as sound barriers, most commercial buildings turn to ceiling insulation as their primary means of dampening noise transfer. However, much of the common drop-ceiling insulation used in office buildings is markedly uninspiring, creating the drab, utilitarian appearance that modern commercial spaces are looking to avoid. Fortunately, decorative drop ceiling panels are highly effective at buffering sound and come in a wide array of designs that can effectively enhance the ambiance of the most innovative commercial spaces. 

5. Durable Handrails and Fixtures

While society continues to hold out hope that the lingering COVID-19 pandemic gets extinguished in the near future, many of the best practices that have arisen during the global health crisis are likely here to stay. One such example is the heightened focus on cleaning and sanitation efforts.

Prior to the pandemic, handrails and fixtures, such as doorknobs and drawer pulls, were likely nothing more than afterthoughts in the grand scheme of interior design. Now, as frequently touched surfaces, they are under the microscope like never before. Sticky wooden handrails are likely a thing of the past, set to be replaced by less porous metal and stainless steel options that can better withstand vigorous disinfecting efforts. In addition, small, intricate fixtures that are difficult to reach are set to be bypassed in favor of larger, more industrial alternatives that provide easier access for cleaning. 

How to Renovate for Wellbeing in Commercial Offices

Improving both the mental and physical health of professionals is a top priority for many companies in 2021. While promoting work/life balance, offering more flexible schedules, and providing health-related lifestyle benefits are some of the intentional measures being taken, companies are increasingly looking for ways to renovate their office spaces with well-being in mind. By considering any of the aforementioned commercial office enhancements, organizations can take an important step in improving the well-being of their workforce. 
Natalie Akins is the Interior Design Editor at Innovative Building Materials. With over 20 years of interior design experience, Natalie has worked on many projects including commercial office design and residential spaces.

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