13.08.2019People and Stories

Office trends — "healthy workspace."

How sustainable materials are shaping the office of the future, a guest commentary by Christiane Varga, trend researcher and futurologist.

The well-being of employees in future will evolve from a soft factor to a harsh reality. The focus here is on a simple fact: People feel better when they are not under stress, when they move around in a near-natural environment, and when the environment has as little cell-damaging effect as possible. When people feel better, their motivation and thus their productivity tends to increase. [Christiane Varga]

Guest commentary by Christiane Varga, trend researcher and futurologist.

What advantages do mafi floors provide for modern work environments?

Indoor air can be significantly improved by using mafi floors. A wooden floor is ideally suitable for using a large amount of wood in projects in a visually appealing manner. The Facebook headquarters in California, the Hyatt headquarters in Chicago, and the co-working hotspot "The Working Capitol" in Singapore are just three of the latest projects on the topic of a "healthy workspace."

What distinguishes mafi from many wooden floor manufacturers in terms of indoor climate is a decisive subtlety in the production process: The floorboards are merely oiled and then given enough time to air-dry. That is the only way the wood retains its healthy properties and can improve the indoor climate. The product itself contains no toxins. Rather, the natural wood even helps filter and improve the indoor air.

Apart from one's home, the indoor climate also plays an increasingly larger role in the workplace. But what exactly does that come down to, and how can you optimize workspaces?

Trend researcher and futurologist Christiane Varga provides an explanation in this guest commentary:

Connectivity and Health — the Two Trends for the Modern Workspace

Two major developments are having a significant impact on the workspace of the future: modern, connective work and a new, holistic understanding of health. So what does the ideal office of the future look like, offering employees a physical anchor point, especially in our highly mobile world? That creates a place where the individual can work in a productive manner and feels optimally "nurtured" in terms of physical and mental health?

In addition to an appreciative and open corporate culture, which is increasingly taken for granted by younger generations in particular, the answers primarily involve a new awareness that the things surrounding us have a decisive impact on our well-being. In other words, furniture and materials in future must not only be aesthetically pleasing but also sustainable and, at best, healthy.

Employees as the Focus

The well-being of employees in future will evolve from a soft factor to a harsh reality. The focus here is on a simple fact: People feel better when they are not under stress, when they move around in a near-natural environment, and when the environment has as little cell-damaging effect as possible. When people feel better, their motivation and thus their productivity tends to increase. A factor that was still gravely neglected in times of industrialization. There were plenty of interchangeable workers, and production was subject only to the one-dimensional logic of increase. But even in this day and age, according to the Steelcase Global Report 2016, only 13% of employees around the world are very happy with their job and describe themselves as highly motivated and committed. In Germany, that percentage is even lower, 12%. Austria was not included in the Report, but the numbers are generally comparable to Germany.

Connection between Productivity and Employee Satisfaction

In today's working world, the productivity factor is closely linked to employee satisfaction, bringing the notions of "talent attraction" and "talent retention" to the floor. It is difficult to find good employees and even harder to retain them in the long run.

Knowledge, creativity, and empathy play a decisive role in our service and knowledge-based society — and make the employee an essential part of the corporate DNA. Classic hierarchies are renegotiated, which offers employees more room for creativity but also comes with a new self-conception of responsibility and time management. Navigating through the daily variety of options, making decisions in your own project requires a work setting that provides the best support possible.

In the future, the quality of life will be an essential criterion for choosing a job, as it is recognized more and more as part of the personal living environment. Workspaces are living spaces — and health is synonymous with a good life.

Air for Breathing and Thinking

Health is no longer just the absence of disease but is understood more and more holistically today and in the future. All the more surprising that there are still many indoor spaces in buildings that can make us sick — both at home and in the office. In the case of air pollution, we still think first of outdoor air, traffic exhaust fumes, and fine dust, but that is precisely what makes indoor air an underestimated burden. After all, we spend most of our lives indoors, breathing in what furnishings from furniture to carpets, household cleaners, and paints and varnishes give off, for years in some cases.

Diverse medical examinations have long confirmed what is also common sense in pneumology, that is, for lung specialists: Certain interior materials increase the risk of asthma. But even for non-asthmatics, contaminated air can be harmful and also lead to respiratory problems, headaches, or over-stressed eyes. A phenomenon also known as sick-building syndrome.

Early Detection of Sick-Building Syndrome

As early as 1984, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that nearly 30 percent of newly built or refurbished buildings worldwide generate poor indoor air that can contribute to sick-building syndrome (SBS). Symptoms of SBS may be due to several factors. Not infrequently, a mixture of chemical, physical and/or psychological processes is involved, with the processes joining forces to form a sinister alliance. What is important here for the employer is to check all potential causes — preferably before sick notes are accumulated. Because then, it is usually already too late, and measures that can reverse the process in the direction of a "generally healthy workspace" are much more costly and time-consuming.

Simple means alone can be used to create a comfortable, healthy living and work climate. Plants in the office, for example, play a larger role here than you may think; they are good for mental health and indoor climate, lowering the noise level. There are wall paints that simulate photosynthesis; surfaces that provide pleasant acoustics. However, you can also start by clearing out and dusting off full shelves as well as discarding old carpets. But a well-known material, too, has been on the rise again lately when it comes to a healthy living interior — wood.

Stylish Connection of Origin and Future

The comeback of wood as a building material, floor, and wall or façade element indicates a renaissance of natural materials also in the furniture and furnishing sector, a trend towards everything natural and organic. Instead of being associated with rural regions or rustic taverns as in the past, wood conquers urban space and finds its way into modern office environments.

But not only here. More and more rooms now come with wooden floors, whether in restaurants or hotels, cafes or bars. A high-quality wooden floor is considered modern and stands for style and urban coziness. Even in the bathroom, the natural floor provides warmth and well-being. The visual aspects make an ideal connection with the ecological and healthy features.

Open Porosity of Wood as a Key Factor

Wood not only is an extremely sustainable material but also displays its effect at several levels. Natural wood can significantly improve the indoor climate and, in particular, play an important role in the work routine for allergy sufferers and asthmatics. It is also proven to promote concentration and reduces stress, which is why it is increasingly used in school buildings as well. However, it is important that the wood is not sealed but remains open-pored. The breathable properties of the material allow the positive aspects of the building material to take full affect.

Thus, the raw material wood is more than just a building material; it has a high cultural and psychological value. We humans are multi-sensory beings and react positively to wood in all its manifestations. The grain, the curves, the smell — we intuitively feel that wood "lives" and that every piece of it is unique in the world. The more digital our everyday life becomes, the greater the need for something analogous and natural gets to be.

We want to increasingly use our senses again to generate more well-being, strength, and concentration. A trend that offers great potential for the future of healthy office spaces.

What will the future of modern workspaces look like?

In the "healthy workspace," the ecological and healthy living environment does not exclude aspects such as aesthetic design, functionality, and comfort. On the contrary.

In the future, the combination-related approach will prevail more and more in interior design and architecture compared to a classically representative or purely functional office. In times of global networking and globalization, an important factor in setting a counterpoint to interchangeability and arbitrariness as a company and thus becoming a magnet for emerging talent.

In this way, new places of work will emerge that are not only economically efficient but also have special cultural and historical characteristics and, above all, function in a socially sustainable manner. After all, this also affects the entire corporate culture, which thus achieves an individual appeal.

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