- Workplaces that don’t have quiet spaces can cause overstimulation and contribute to burnout.
- Increasingly, operators and designers are integrating versatile meditative spaces into their floorplans.
- A quiet or meditation space can take on many forms, depending on the type of workplace and culture of the team.
To create a future of work that is balanced and sustainable, it’s key to find ways to replace the current burnout culture with one that encourages equilibrium.
Because, let’s face it, you don’t have to look far to find evidence of burnout within workplaces.
Recent research by Eagle Hill Consulting, for instance, reveals that 46% of U.S. employees say they are burned out from their jobs; 52% of respondents chose workload as the top reason for burnout, while 44% pointed to staff shortages.
While this research highlights the impact of the labor crisis on employee wellbeing, there is also growing awareness of how sensory overload in the workplace can impact people’s stress levels and ability to perform well.
Allwork.Space spoke with five workspace design and wellness experts to find out how quiet meditation areas in offices can boost wellbeing and drive occupancy.
There’s no place like home
“Post-COVID, people are coming back from quiet home environments and being confronted with very active workplaces, which can cause overstimulation and trouble focusing,” said Elma Milanovic, Managing Associate at FitzGerald.
Those with a finger on the pulse of workplace design and wellness recognize that employees need time away from their busy desks to decompress and recharge.
Before, the office kitchen or bathroom may have been the only quiet oasis in an otherwise bustling workplace. Now, workspace operators and designers are dedicating a much larger portion of their floorplan to meditative spaces.
“To reflect how important the mental and physical health of employees is to an organization, an office should be equipped with flexible spaces for employees to focus on their health and wellness,” explained Lauren Gardner, Director of Creative and Strategy at Spectorgroup.
Gardner believes that wellness is a must-have when designing offices, as well as a valuable business investment for organizations looking to reduce absenteeism and stress while increasing productivity and happiness.
“A workplace with space for employees to unwind can cultivate a dynamic company culture and boost employee satisfaction,” she said.
The importance of privacy
Research published in 2014 by Ipsos and the Workspace Futures Team at Steelcase demonstrates just how important privacy is for individuals who work in-situ.
After questioning 10,500 workers across Europe, North America and Asia, Ipsos and Steelcase found that 85% of participants were dissatisfied with their office environment and found it difficult to concentrate.
It is important to note that nearly a decade has elapsed since this research was conducted. However, many of the findings continue to add interest and insight to discussions around the future or work and workplace design.
For example, the study found that people usually evaluate the following four privacy factors to determine if a space will provide meet their needs:
- Acoustical privacy — does the space enable the individual to be undisturbed by sound, or make sound without disturbing others?
- Visual privacy — can the individual be seen by others and does the space contain sight-induced distractions?
- Territorial privacy — can the individual claim and control the space as their own?
- Informational privacy — does the space facilitate content and conversation confidentiality?
How to build in calm among the chaos
When it comes to the design specifications of today’s quiet spaces, there is no one-size-fits all, explained Cara Sutton, Junior Interior Designer at Bockus Payne.
“A quiet or meditation space can take on many forms depending on the type of workplace and culture of the team. A quiet space might function for taking personal phone calls, or just getting away from the noise in the office. The design could include calming colors, soft seating, and ambient lighting,” Sutton said. “A meditation space — sometimes referred to as ‘zen’ space — may perhaps function for breathwork, yoga, meditation, prayer, or cat naps.”
According to Sutton, this kind of design can include warm colors and natural materials, sofa and/or floor space for a yoga mat and floor pillows, ambient lighting, and a sound system that could be used for calming music or guided meditation.
The ability to customize quiet spaces is key. Other design staples include acoustic separation or zoning, noise canceling systems and adjustable lighting, which are all features that help create a sense of calm and separation from the often high-energy and highly sensory deskspace environment.
“Regardless of the ways in which employees use the spaces, they offer opportunities for quiet mindfulness throughout the day and can have a marked impact on happiness, productivity, and retention,” said Angelina Deaconeasa, Senior Design Director at Ted Moudis Associates. “Studies show five minutes of quiet downtime can improve concentration, breathing and stress throughout the day.”
A quiet and meditation space should be as distraction-free as possible; in other words, it should facilitate visual privacy. Downtime is about creating the conditions required for the mind to wander. As such, less is often more, said Kristen Larkin, Principal at FitzGerald.
“Interestingly, mediation or quiet spaces tend to work better when they are designed very simply. This allows the space to be multifunctional and cater to different types of activities that help people recharge. We’re thinking about how these spaces can support someone looking to take a nap, recover from a headache, do yoga, pray, or meditate — whatever best helps them to replenish their internal resources,” Larkin explained.
Larkin said she’s even looked into incorporating small screens to facilitate digital therapy sessions.
“In our office, we have a combined quiet space/mother’s room, which is a nice overlap because nursing mothers often desire to be in a similar mindset, disconnected from work distractions,” she concluded.