Mental health problems at work are commonplace. According to mental health charity Mind, at least one in six workers are experiencing mental health problems. And it’s costing employers between £33-42 billion a year.
Supporting mental health in the workplace isn’t just a nice to have - it’s a necessity. Fortunately, in the last few years, companies have been prioritising it with an enthusiasm never seen before. Not only is supporting workers’ mental health the right thing to do for employees, but the business advantages are widespread, including increased productivity, lower absenteeism, and higher employee retention rates.
As part of this shift, we’ve seen an increased demand for wellness rooms in the workplace. Giving workers a space to relax and recharge away from the rest of the office is invaluable. We explore what a wellness room is, what the benefits are, and how to create one in your office.
What is a wellness room?
A wellness room is a dedicated, private space within the office where employees can take time out to tend to their own personal health needs.
It’s a calm, quiet space where people can drop in if feeling stressed, anxious, or just in need of some time alone, providing them with a vital break away from the rest of the office.
It may not always be referred to as a wellness room. Some companies choose to refer to it as a ‘contemplation room’, a ‘renew room’ or ‘respite room’, for example. But the concept is the same: a space for workers to be alone and re-centre themselves.
Why should your office have a wellness room?
In 2020/21 there were an estimated 822,000 workers affected by work-related stress, depression or anxiety. That’s 2,480 per 100,000 workers.
Work requires many different brain modes and workers have to shift from focused work to problem solving to meetings and collaboration throughout the day. Being ‘on’ for 8 hours a day is hard for anyone. Having a wellness room gives people space for solitude to decompress and rejuvenate at any point during the day.
91% of people say they need casual spaces to re-energise at work
And it’s not just work-related challenges that people face. For workers struggling with mental health issues, or difficulties in their personal lives, having a space in the office to be alone can be particularly helpful.
A wellness room has several advantages for your business too. Providing a space for employees to take care of themselves and their needs can improve productivity levels and shows workers that their employers care for their team, which in turn, can lead to reduced absenteeism and better retention rates.
Employees may also be more encouraged to come into the office rather than work from home if they know there’s a space they can go to for some privacy when needed.
“Wellness was on the radar well before Covid. People were coming into the office all the time, commuting day after day, and life was busy. If people can get away from it all for a little while, it helps with their mental health. It also helps them be more productive, to feel better at work, and they have less time off because they don’t get sick.”
Rachel Brown, Senior Designer at IE
What should a wellness room look like?
You don’t need a large space or a significant budget to create an effective and inviting wellness room in your office. An unused room within your office will be perfect. Or you could transform an existing first-aid room into a multi-purpose space that can also be used as a wellness room, prayer room, and a space for a nursing mother to pump breast milk.
A wellness room should be designed for one person to use at a time. Ideally, it should be located in a discreet, out-of-the-way location. This will make it feel even more private for workers, and allows them to slip away quietly without attracting much attention.
When it comes to designing and furnishing the space itself:
- Every wellness room should have furniture that promotes relaxation, such as a long sofa or bed that allows employees to lay down. You may also offer a chair and footstool so they have a choice of seating. A simple end table or coffee table also provides a useful surface for a glass of water or medication.
- Indirect light is key to creating a calming environment. Control over the lighting is also important so users can dim the lights up or down to their needs.
- Choose soft, tranquil colours and finishes that will help users to feel calm and relaxed. Avoid bright colours. Artwork should be simple and serene.
- Add elements of biophilia through materials and plant life to mimic being in nature. These elements will add depth and feel refreshing and grounding.
- Calming music, like birdsong or waves, or even white or brown noise, can help to ground people who are feeling overwhelmed.
- Objects like lamps and diffusers create appeal and personal comfort.
- The most effective wellness rooms are technology free, with no plug sockets or workstations, so workers can really switch off.
“Workers should be able to adjust the lighting, temperature and sound to suit their own personal needs.”
Darren Congdon, Senior Designer at IE
“Lighting, sound, aroma, soft tones and finishes… all of these things are important for calming the senses so workers feel relaxed and grounded.”
Rachel Brown, Senior Designer at IE
Pfizer's Renew Rooms
We recently helped Pfizer to create wellness rooms in their offices. An existing prayer room was being under-utilised and the company wanted to enhance the space and extend its use for all employees who may need some time out.
A group of stakeholders from across the business came together to brainstorm what people might want from a wellness space. They wanted to keep it a simple, with minimal objects and no clocks, to create a neutral but comfortable space.
Careful attention was made to ensure that, despite now having a wider use, the space continued to meet the needs of muslims using it for prayer. A special storage space has also been set up close by the room where prayer mats can be kept for easy access rather than people needing to carry them across the building.
We designed the space to mimic the feel of relaxing by the beach. The room was equipped with a comfortable lounger, small table, soft colours and textures, and a giant image of Botany Bay, a beach close to their offices. LED sky ceilings were installed so users could really feel they were away from the office.
An alternative design gave users the option of a bed or chair with footstool. The artwork reflected a calming nature scene.
Employees have not been issued rules on how to space, as they wanted to keep the messaging around it positive.
There is an accessible lock on the door so people know when the room is in use. But a discreet 'occupied' sign on the outside of the door would work equally well. The room is not available to book as nobody can anticipate when they might need it.
Feedback from users so far has been positive:
"The feedback has been great. People have been using it to have a snooze, to meditate, listen to music, or just take some time out from everything that looks like an office."
Jemma Shearman, Well Places Project Co-Ordinator at Pfizer
"Even if it just helps two people, it's worth it."
Wendy Hughes, Facilities Manager at Pfizer
Don't have a room to use? You can still create wellness spaces
If you don’t have a room available that you can use, there are other ways to create wellness spaces within the open plan. A booth with black out blinds and acoustic privacy can have a similar impact as a built in room. Acoustic screens and barriers wrapped around a chair or bed could also be suitable.
In addition, innovative new products like the Steelcase Tents can be used to create semi-private wellness spaces for individuals within the open plan.
At the Steelcase office in Munich, a different kind of wellness space has been created. A Zerobody system has been installed, giving workers the chance to completely regenerate through Dry Float Therapy. Inspired by the scientifically-proven benefits of floatation in water, Zerobody allows users to float over 400 litres of warm water without the need to get wet.
"Zerobody, a one-of-a-kind system offering the benefits of reduced gravity, is a technological innovation in the service of regenerative well-being that produces a positive impact on: stress, muscle and joint pain, sleep, focus, psycho-physical recovery."
Positioning of these wellness spaces will be key, so as to ensure they are located away from busy areas, noise, and prying eyes.
Ensuring employees feel their best and perform at their greatest potential is integral to the success of any company. Having a wellness room in the office can make all the difference. Whatever challenges your workers may be facing, a chance to get away from the rest of the office is invaluable.
To speak with the IE team about how you could incorporate a wellness room in your office, please get in touch.