Why every office needs a wellness room

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. 

HSE

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

Steelcase

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. 

Bolia-philippa-chair-and-footstool

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

In a recent project for Pfizer, we designed a “Renew Room” 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 a beach scene.

wellness-room-beach-concept

An alternative design gave users the option of a bed or chair with footstool. The artwork reflected a calming nature scene.

wellness-room-nature-concept

 

It's important that workers are not disturbed when using the room. A discreet ‘occupied’ on the outside of the door works well. But avoid having a lock on the door, as people may need to access it quickly. The room should not be available to book either, as nobody can anticipate when they might need it.

“Having some kind of indicator to say that the wellness room is in use is really important. A discreet ‘occupied’ sign on the outside of the door, for example.”

Darren Congdon, Senior Designer at IE

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. 

steelcase-pod-tent

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."

zerobody 1290

Positioning of these wellness spaces will be key, so as to ensure they are located away from busy areas, noise, and prying eyes.

Summary

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.

Attract and retain through workplace design

Leave a comment

Attract and retain through workplace design