Human-Centred Design plus Education Creates Healthy, Thriving Work Cultures

The competition to attract, retain and enthuse great people gets tougher each year. Every time one of your team members decides the “grass is greener”, you lose critical IP, team momentum, dozens of hours in recruitment and on-boarding, and of course, this all equates to money down the drain.

So what can an organisation do to ensure that the right people are enticed and that those people stay loyal, productive and enthusiastic?  Tweet: When you have an early meeting or you just can’t face eating before you rush out the door, then a smoothie is the perfect morning companion.  Click to tweet

Increasingly, individuals are looking at the physical space that they work in when making their decision as to whether or not to join a company. And as people become more aware of how a space can impact their physical, mental and social health, then organisations need to try harder to create workplaces that encourage vitality, collaboration and rejuvenation.

Did you know that the 2014 Global Wellness Report found that 1 in 4 millennial’s will leave in the next 12mths if they don’t agree with their employer’s workplace wellness strategy?

If our goal is to create workplaces that promote (and/or maintain) the health and wellness of building occupants so they can thrive and perform at their best, then it is crucial that we understand and acknowledge how DESIGN AND EDUCATION must go hand-in-hand.

Neither of these strategies can make it on their own. Well they can up to a certain point, but without the other, the best outcome will not occur.

Although nothing beats a complete strategy that is specific for your organisation, here are 6 easy ways that you can include design and education in your workplace wellness strategies so that a healthy, thriving work culture is created.


Investing in specialists to help you with the design of your workplace will definitely bring you the greatest success because their expertise and foresight into a space can really make all the difference. If you are a small business though, with a small budget, here are a few ways to improve the design of your workplace.


According to psychologist Ron Friedman“Depriving people of sunlight, restricting their views, and seating them with their backs exposed is not a recipe for success—it’s a recipe for chronic anxiety.” Why? Because from an evolutionary perspective certain types of space provide us with a feeling of safety (or anxiety), we like to see what is going on around us to minimise threat, we like being close to nature, and we operate better with sunlight.

Action: If you don’t have enough natural light coming into your office and you can’t change the layout, make sure you incorporate time outside every day. Have a walking meeting, have 20mins creative time without your phone walking around the block, or go to a park bench for lunch.


Humans inherently connect and benefit from being surrounded and/or connected to nature in some way. This can be in the form of actual nature (plants, sky, water, views) or in the way of design elements that mimic the natural environment.

Action: Why not let everyone in your office have a small indoor plant that they name, and take care of. Even if you are hot-desking this can still work because, at the end of the day, all ‘pet plants’ are left on the window sill (for example), and collected the next morning to accompany their ‘parent’.

Quiet Zones:

No matter the size or configuration of your office, there should be a way that you can include at least a small quiet corner where individuals can sit without noise or distraction when they need to recharge their brains.

Action: If a closed off room is not possible, create a space with a comfy chair or beanbag that does not face the rest of the office, and provide sound-canceling headphones.  Tweet: When you have an early meeting or you just can’t face eating before you rush out the door, then a smoothie is the perfect morning companion.  Click to tweet


Being informed by specialists in the following areas will always bring the best results because people respond best to experts who they look up to. By providing workshops, courses and coaching in these areas, you will get the most from your team. In the meantime, here are a few ways to create healthy, thriving work cultures via education.


Helping your staff to make informed food choices that will nourish their body and brain, will not only help them to become healthier, but it will also impact their ability to perform at their best at work.

Action: Provide healthy food choices in your office and/or create a list of good places to eat that are close enough that employees can walk to at lunch-time. Is there a kitchen area for staff to eat and relax? Provide positive food message posters encouraging healthy eating.


A lot of people struggle to understand how they can fit more movement into their day when they are working fulltime, have long commutes and/or having time-consuming personal responsibilities. Providing education on how to prioritize movement into their work day, will make a big difference to their cognitive and coping abilities.

Action: Take micro-movement breaks – the use of internal staircases; walking meetings (wearing the right shoes!!); standing meetings; 3pm stretch; centralise the printers, bins and other services so people need to get up and move.


Most people do not realise how much their output is impacted by distractions, and in this ‘always-connected’ society that we live in, it’s pretty hard to convince anyone that they would get so much more done in less time, if they reduced the distractions around them. As an organisation there are a number of ways you can ensure your people are not having their performance lowered by office interruptions.

Action: You will firstly need to provide activities that prove how performance is lowered when multi-tasking and attention-switching is going on otherwise they won’t believe you and therefore won’t be motivated to make a change. If you are not sure on how to do this, please contact us for some examples. Once everyone is on-board with how much better off they are when they can focus and concentrate, then encourage digital downtime. Phones on silent, notifications off, desktop sliders off, phones stay in the desk drawer at lunch.

Making sure that a workplace is an environment where staff can be healthy and thrive and perform at their best is beneficial for everyone. There’s no point having expectations that people look after their own health but then come into a toxic work environment that is dim, stuffy, and stressful.

Investing in your people (via workplace design and education programs) will be of great benefit to the success of your organisation because your people are your greatest asset. And healthy, thriving individuals are a far better asset than stressed out, fatigued ones!  Tweet: When you have an early meeting or you just can’t face eating before you rush out the door, then a smoothie is the perfect morning companion.  Click to tweet

If you believe that your work culture could improve by developing better design and education strategies then reach out to experts who can really make a difference.

I am not sure if you know this but I am one of only a small group in Australia with the WELL™ AP (Accredited Professional) qualification from the International WELL™ Building Institute.

Together with my decades of experience, this makes me a global leader, speaker and consultant dedicated to supporting human health and well-being in work environments just like yours. Organisations who understand and embrace the direct link between healthy, happy people and successful, profitable organisations IS the future way of work, and I can help you get there. Being able to watch ordinary teams turn into extraordinary teams because of realistic workplace wellness strategies, is a something I will never take for granted.

Be Well / Love Life / Heidi Dening / Founder and CEO / Workable Wellness

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