Melissa Marsh On Why Workplace Wellness and Multisensory Design Go Hand in Hand

Melissa Marsh, Founder and Executive Director of PLASTARC, discusses multisensory design, workplace wellness, and how coworking spaces are getting it right.

This article is part of our “workplace design” series.

“There’s a lot of correlation between wellness factors and multisensory design factors,” Marsh says. “From a biological perspective, the raison d’etre for many of our senses is to keep us healthy. We, as human beings, are designed to use our senses to help enable our health.”

Let’s first recapitulate on what multisensory design is.

Last year, Marsh explained that multisensory design comes from the notion that humans experience the physical space in many ways. “Even though sight is what people tend to think of first when it comes to design and architecture, we respond just as strongly to sounds, smells, temperature, humidity, textures, flavors.”

The multisensory approach to design is, therefore, an approach that takes into consideration much more than the visual aesthetics of a place. This approach also focuses on how people will react to a space, both physically and emotionally.

Multisensory Design in the Workplace

According to Marsh, “design work in other sectors–like retail and hospitality- has for a very long time been more multisensored. Hotels use smell as a way to create a brand identity, really thinking about all the sensorial aspects of the environment they create. Multisensory design, particularly smells, has also been associated with luxury and high-end retail.”

Though in the past workplace design wasn’t known for being multisensored, many are not tapping into it–especially serviced workspace providers. (Much has been said about the similarities between the workspace-as-a-service industry and the hospitality industry–and it looks like design can be added to the list. )

“Coworking has continued to grow and expand as a business; it has disrupted the industry and made people realize and recognize that there is a different demand for workplace settings. Coworking spaces have been much more thoughtful about multisensory design than other types of organizations.”

Multisensory and Wellness

One of the reasons why multisensory design is picking up in various circles is because of the immense push towards promoting wellness.

WELL, Fitwel, and other wellness standards that are pushing for certified wellness buildings are heavily aligned with multisensory design,” Marsh tells us.

Becoming a wellness certified building or workplace requires the stimulation of various senses air, light, levels of comfort, and nourishment are just a few of the various wellbeing factors that play a key role in multisensory design

Current Trends and Technology

As for what the future holds for multisensory design, Marsh explains that much will be dictated by technology. “People are continuing to interact with space in a digital way and through mobile devices; this making the responsiveness of the environment as signaled through changes in multisensory function more practical and more prevalent.”

For architects and designers, this means that it is easier for them to install a system where the lights change during the course of the day, depending on sunlight, the time of day, and the number of occupants.

The important issue to remember is that, “people are more aware of the technology and how it can possibly affect them, so they are expecting these types of ‘automatic’ changes to happen.”