You should evaluate the quality of your office based both on what it adds and on what it can subtract—the distractions it can remove from developers, architects, and designers. Eliminating distractions maximizes their workplace comfort from the standpoint of all of their senses. (Unfortunately not even the best architects can rid themselves of distracting workmates...)
Hello! My name’s Lloyd, and I’m an architect. Right now I’m designing new offices that meet the highest of standards: the ones in international WELL certification for healthy offices. The kind of offices where I myself would like to work.
Let’s take a tour of how the theory—that is, the WELL Building Standard—defines a healthy office. During your tour, you’ll also see the view from practice of Skanska’s Eva Nykodymová, who’s working to acquire the first WELL certifications for office buildings in the Czech Republic.
Lloyd: Smell is a rather overlooked sense in office design. But just imagine trying to focus on your work when the smell of lunch is wafting towards you from the next desk over. And at Huffington Post, they even say you should be fired for heating up fish in the office microwave!
Eva: That’s why WELL certification requires technical solutions to keep odor particles from passing among different spaces.
Lloyd: According to WELL, bad acoustics are one of the main reasons for people being dissatisfied with their working spaces. (And I’m not talking about your boss’s shouting.) Good office design should shield you from outside sounds over 50 decibels— similar to the maximum noise limit for the Prague trunkway.
Eva: Simultaneously we try to create various acoustic spaces in interiors—from open spaces with naturally higher noise levels, to quieter closed spaces, to comfortable relaxation zones. WELL applies strict criteria for even the installation of doors into open spaces.
Almost 90% of the people surveyed in a JLL/Skanska study this year said they find it important to have a way to escape distracting noises—but half of them don’t any such escapes.
Lloyd: Everyone’s different, and their working spaces should adapt to these differences. They shouldn’t have to adapt to their working spaces.
Eva: There are legal requirements here (for example regarding the arrangement of your computer screen and mouse), but WELL goes beyond them and requires e.g. configurable desk heights, as well as special workstations and ergonomic chairs that everyone can work well in. And if you want to work standing up, why not?
MOTION COMFORT / ERGONOMICS
Lloyd: Standing desks and the like are growing in popularity. And at least 30% of the spots in a healthy office should support “stand-up” work.
Eva: We as the developer—with the main responsibility for the building frame (the “Core and Shell”)—ensure that each building is maximally accessible and suitable for people with reduced mobility, e.g. on wheelchairs.
What sounds bother you the most at your office?
Lloyd: An office’s temperature is a significant factor influencing workers’ moods, efficiency, and productivity. However, WELL certification makes room for the fact that ideal temperatures are a very individual matter based on expectations, differing company dress codes and cultures, and gender differences (it’s no wonder that they say men are from Mars, where it’s about -63 °C on the surface, and women come from Venus, whose surface burns at 464 °C).
Eva: WELL assessment grants bonus points if an office’s HVAC (for offices over 200 m2) can create multiple thermal zones in an open space with a temperature difference of at least 3 °C.
WELL certification covers eight areas that are decisive for a healthy office. We showed you five of these pillars in recent weeks; you’ll find them behind the links below. We’ll be presenting more areas and their ambassadors again in a week.