Sustainability and Wellbeing in Interior Design Q&A
We spoke to our Interior Designers: Eleanor Penny, Gina Clarke and Bella Elsworth, about the importance of sustainable practices and wellbeing-focused spaces.
As young designers, what does workplace sustainability mean to you?
Gina Clarke: Generally speaking, workplace sustainability means shifting the way we work in an effort to find eco-friendly solutions to workplace problems and practices. This can be achieved within a business through schemes implemented by management or by employees themselves, however as designers we get the unique opportunity to integrate sustainability into the workplace at a much more foundational level.
Isabella Elsworth: Today more than ever, we are incredibly aware of the impact that we are having on the planet and we have got the opportunity to make a difference now. Spreading that awareness is really important for us as young designers and young people. The products that we use are sustainable as well as being good for people’s wellbeing, which is exactly the change that’s needed in workplaces.
Eleanor Penny: Our generation is really pushing for these changes and we don’t want to be working in industries which are bad for the planet. In our position, it’s important to show the wider industry, who aren’t necessarily aware of the full extent of the changes they can be making to improve sustainability, that they can really be driving impactful change and setting precedents here.
Isabella: There are many ways that companies can take small actions to be more sustainable and use sustainable materials and suppliers. We get to work with companies who are doing this work daily, so it’s really great to see this shift towards saving offcuts, working with recycled materials and upcycling furniture.
Gina: Ensuring the spaces we create are designed with sustainability right at the heart means we can take accountability for our environmental impact and aim to limit it as much as possible. We have the power to change the paradigm and as young designers, it would be irresponsible to ignore this.
Eleanor: Sustainability needs to be in every aspect of what we’re doing, it needs to be the standard of being on a grand scale for the present and the future.
What is workplace wellbeing and why is it important?
Eleanor: Workplace wellbeing is every aspect of your health when you’re at work. For many companies, an employee's physical and mental health is considered a personal thing to put on hold until they’re finished at work. But everyone knows that’s not the reality - every aspect of our lives affects our health and wellbeing. If you want a workforce who wants to work for you, they need to be supported to work in a healthy way.
Gina: Workplace wellbeing covers much more than physical and mental health too - it also includes job security, financial security and work/life balance. We spend nearly one third of our lives at work, so creating safe and enjoyable working environments should be high on our priority list.
Isabella: The space you’re in has a massive impact on your wellbeing, from the people you work with to hybrid working flexibility to the chairs you sit in and the colours in the room - it’s all vital.
Isabella: It should be a priority for everyone in the workplace to feel welcome, safe and comfortable. For many of us after lockdown, we’re now back to commuting to workplaces and spending our time there instead of working from home, so these places need to feel like somewhere we want to be. It’s up to employers now to support their employees to feel happy and supported at work.
Gina: While the benefits of workplace wellbeing are largely obvious to employees, employers also benefit from supporting and safeguarding workplace wellbeing schemes - through improved staff retention, productivity and performance as well as reduced sick absence. Although much of this is put into effect from within a business, as designers we’re able to help with the physical manifestation of a working environment that promotes wellness and is inclusive for all users.
Eleanor: As designers we’re very aware of the things we can do to improve inclusion, flexibility and support for all workers in our spaces and we’re always wanting to find new ways to enhance these.
How have company approaches to workplace sustainability and wellbeing changed in the last few years?
Isabella: The industry has definitely taken a big shift in the last few years. Companies realise now after COVID that they have to make their workplaces somewhere employees want to be spending their time and supporting them to feel productive and relaxed at work.
Eleanor: People are also conscious of how drastically pollution levels went down during lockdowns, with less commuting. Now they don’t need to commute and add to this pollution again, they want their companies to work harder to put sustainability and wellbeing as a top priority. If companies want people back into the office, they need to show their employees that they’re investing in new styles of working such as sit-stand desks, walking breaks and sustainable materials and practices.
Gina: Many companies are moving to a more human approach when it comes to wellbeing at work. The scale we work at and trade on has grown so quickly over the past few decades that our sense of community has sort of become lost. Human-centric design has now become important as a method for bringing that sense of community back into the workplace and ensuring employees feel valued again. This intertwines with the rise of workplace sustainability as green practices become ever more important to guarantee ourselves a future. To disregard sustainability would be to disregard wellbeing: you can’t achieve long-term goals with short-term solutions.
Isabella: Companies are asking us at Layrd Design how they can make their spaces more bright, fun, playful and exciting, while also being wellbeing focused and sustainable. We’ve had the chance to design spaces with this at the forefront and it’s a really great thing to be a part of. From our portfolio, the Yawn Marketing boardroom in Norwich uses lots of colour to make the space feel lively and engaging, with sustainable carpets and upcycled furniture. The Riverlane office in Cambridge makes use of ergonomic furniture and agile working spaces to improve collaboration and wellbeing with inclusive spaces for all.
What changes can businesses make to enhance their sustainability and improve wellbeing?
Eleanor: It’s not about telling businesses they need to strip out what they’ve already got in their offices and replace it with new elements, as that’s obviously not sustainable in itself! Instead, it’s about making use of what’s already there and finding companies who can work with those existing materials and advise on how to enhance those spaces sustainably and cost-effectively.
Isabella: People want to feel like their office is a welcoming space, not just white walls, scratchy carpet and uncomfortable furniture. Businesses can make changes to lighting, flooring, colours and add plants to the space. Bringing plants into a space can really bring the outside in and help a space feel open and homely. Colour is very tied into human psychology and can be an important change to shift the mood and feel of the space.Even a lick of paint can make so much difference!
Isabella: One of my favourite floorings to install is AirMaster, a sustainable cradle-to-cradle product which captures and retains dust particles in the flooring itself, which really helps people with breathing issues. Making changes to lighting can also help reduce headaches and glare from screens and ergonomic furniture can help musculoskeletal health.
Eleanor: Flexibility is key to helping maintain a healthy and happy workforce too. This idea of change puts off many companies but the reality is that the traditional 9-5 of being sat at a desk all day hardly works for anybody. Plenty of companies have changed drastically in line with this shift, so we know there are plenty of benefits to be had from implementing agile working.
Gina: Aside from conscientious design of workspaces, companies can also focus on education of the workforce to enhance their sustainability. Encouraging green-thinking or creating green-incentives are good ways to get employees involved in the sustainability conversation and inspire environmental activism. But it’s also important to practice what you preach - obvious things like recycling, reducing energy consumption, cutting out wasteful processes and non-recyclable materials are also important.
We’d love to discuss how our experienced team can transform your space. Get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01223 952992 today.