The Future Of Wellness Architecture

05/04/2018

When we think of the modern workplace, Google HQ often springs to mind with its  gaming areas, pool tables, hammocks and aquariums. While the global giant was one of the first to implement this fun and laid-back approach to the office, they’re no longer alone in offering employees more than a desk and computer.

Australia’s largest wellness provider, endota spa, have departed from traditional architecture to create a cutting-edge space, driven by a focus on staff’s wellbeing. In an effort to introduce nature to the workplace, endota spa CEO and founder Melanie Gleeson created a biophilic office space with the help of architect Caitlin Marshall.

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“Biophilic design has been shown to reduce stress, enhance creativity, improve clarity of thought and accelerate healing. It was really important for us to look at this when creating our new office space. We value people’s innate connection to nature so we wanted to be mindful of this within our office. The very reason I started endota spa was to help improve health and wellbeing of individuals,” says Gleeson.

The result speaks for itself. The new Victoria-based headquarters are anything but your standard office. Scandinavian-style timber fittings and subdued, natural lighting set the tone, while towering ficus trees not only look beautiful, but go to work on improving poor indoor air quality, absorbing mold spores and carbon monoxide. This is turn will improve employees’ ability to concentrate, and enhance overall health.

“The interior design of the office space was an evolution over two months and was based off the guidelines set by the International WELL Building Institute,” explains architect Caitlin Marshall.

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“We wanted a design that represented endota spa’s values which then created a clear brief for us to work with. We designed open work spaces to allow flow between departments and to bring staff together. An abundance of greenery was planned and research was done into indoor trees. A species called Benjamina Ficus was found to be suitable.”

The same sentiments lie behind the staff meditation room, equipped with purifying salt lamps and soft music, designed to help employees take effective timeouts, reduce stress and refocus. Weekly meditation and Qigong classes are offered to all employees, to encourage staff to make the most of the facilities.

“The yoga room is a unique space. We specifically wanted to create a multi-use room that we could use for internal meetings or wellness sessions. We wanted to break away from the traditional boardroom with the inclusion of bean bag chairs, blankets and yoga mats,” says Marshall.

For those wanting less “Om” and more “Yay”, there is a dedicated play zone equipped with swing, wellness library, organic tea station and relaxation lounge. Visitors are also welcome, to promote creative thinking and offer an approachable place to meet. It’s also the architect’s favourite space in the office.

Besides supporting employees’ mental health, physical health is given a boost thanks to standing stations, optional fit balls instead of chairs, and Fitbit watches to help staff monitor their physical activity.

“Stand up desks give me the option to move from sitting to standing throughout the day, which is great for my role as Design Manager, which involves a full day at the computer,” says endota HQ employee Taegen Reid.

She says the new office has made her more productive as “it encourages team work and we have multiple areas to meet on projects and chat. The lighting is also very calming and I find this helps me stay focused through the day.”

Another staff favourite is the huge kitchen; an inviting shared lunch space, as well as the veggie patch garden and outdoor breakfast bar. Citrus trees, herbs and home-grown vegetables are available for staff to pick at leisure, making the garden a popular place on sunny days.

The entire process, from design concept to finish, took less than six months – an impressive effort and a success in every way judging by employees’ rave reviews.

“Being able to work in this big inspiring new space is the best. I couldn’t ask for a better place to work,” says Reid.

By Nadine Dilong

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