If we are comfortable in our working environment, it stands to reason that we will be more motivated and productive. Interestingly, ‘comfort’ is one of the building design concepts that can be benchmarked under the WELL Building Standard®. Evoke Projects looks at what the Standard recommends to create distraction-free, productive and comfortable indoor environments during your next office fit-out or office refurbishment.
In version 1 of the WELL Standard, the ‘comfort’ considerations embrace acoustic, ergonomic, olfactory and thermal comfort. We have covered all those factors in this article, but it is worth noting that the WELL version 2 pilot breaks these up into separate concepts, so we will be revisiting this in more detail later in the year.
ACOUSTIC COMFORT WITHIN OFFICE DESIGNS
Acoustic problems are a leading source of dissatisfaction within the environmental conditions of an office. The WELL Building Standard aims to shape spaces to mitigate unwanted indoor noise levels and reduce exterior noise intrusion to enhance social interaction, learning, satisfaction and productivity.
Evoke Projects works closely with office fit-out and office refurbishment clients on their acoustics planning because the fundamental office design can make or break this important comfort factor. Some of the WELL v1 concepts that we recommend:
- Prevent excessive exterior noise from reaching the office interior by keeping the average sound pressure level from outside noise intrusion below 50 dBA. Traffic noise is probably the biggest source of irritation. In fact, studies show that individuals exposed to traffic noise have a higher risk for diabetes, stroke and heart attack, and those exposed to road traffic and aircraft noises have a higher risk for hypertension.
- Develop an acoustic plan within your office design to identify potential indoor noise problems. Indoor noise can lead to reduced concentration and mental arithmetic performance. Zones are an effective way to manage indoor noise, with a mix of quiet and noisy spaces. An office refurbishment or new office fit-out is an ideal time to talk to your office interior designer about zones, not only for noise reduction, but also for more efficient work flows.
- Indoor noise can also be improved with sound-friendly surfaces that can be installed during a new office fit-out, such as wall panels, ceiling baffles and anti-reverberation treatments. High quality construction materials can greatly improve the ability of interior partitions or doors to act as sound barriers and reduce sound transmission between adjacent spaces.
- Complete quiet is not recommended as it makes people self-conscious about conversations. Sound masking systems can supply a low level of background noise to provide workers with some confidentiality in their communications.
ERGONOMICS WITHIN THE OFFICE DESIGN
Overuse of the same muscles and ligaments can cause discomfort and strain, especially in occupational environments that require repetitive tasks. Evoke Projects regularly advises office fit-out and office refurbishment clients about office furniture ergonomics. The WELL Standard v1 recommends:
- Visual Ergonomics
All computer screens, including laptops, are adjustable in terms of height and distance from the user.
- Desk Height Flexibility
At 30% of workstations that are at seated height or similar work surfaces, users have the ability to alternate between sitting and standing through one of the following:
a. Adjustable height sit-stand desks.
b. Desk-top height adjustment stands.
c. Pairs of fixed-height desks of standing and seated heights (which need not be located adjacent to each other).
OLFACTORY COMFORT WITHIN THE OFFICE DESIGN
Excessively strong smells can disrupt concentration, and even trigger eye, nose and throat irritation, nausea and headaches. WELL recommends that all restrooms, cleaning stores, kitchens, cafeterias and pantries are designed to prevent strong odours from migrating to workspaces through either negative pressurisation, plant/interstitial rooms, vestibules, hallways or self-closing doors. The latter could reasonably form part of an office refurbishment, but a more substantial office fit-out is required for structural changes.
THERMAL COMFORT WITHIN THE OFFICE DESIGN
This is a tricky one, with individuals varying greatly in their temperature preferences. Office fit-out and refurbishment clients often refer to room temperature as a contentious issue in the workplace. Generally, between 21-23°C is considered to be the optimum temperature.
WELL v1 recommends providing areas with different thermal gradients, so that employees can choose areas with temperatures that suit them (“free address”). Specifically, areas over 200 m² should provide a thermal gradient of at least 3°C across open workspaces and between floors or rooms with more than 10 people. Also, open office spaces with occupants performing tasks that require similar workstations should allow for at least 50% free address to allow occupants to select a work space with a desired temperature.
The WELL Building Standard has more detail about office design best practice. Please visit their website for more information or talk to the team at Evoke Projects. WELL v1 is still open for registrations; the WELL v2 pilot aims to assess community uptake and feedback about the new office design concepts. For more details about Well v2, visit the website.
A new office fit-out or office refurbishment is an opportunity to consider your company’s approach to total office wellness. Please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692 to find out about office designs that focus on wellness.