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JOURNALISM: Workplace Wellness Alive And Well In London [Download .pdf version]


Workplace Wellness Alive And Well In London
by Jeffrey Reed
Published by Business London Magazine

University of Alberta professor and workplace consultant Graham Lowe, author of the book, Creating Healthy Organizations: How Vibrant Workplaces Inspire Employees to Achieve Sustainable Success, defines an office as an organic being - just like the people who work within its walls.

"We often talk about healthy individuals as being fit, resilient, thriving and agile. The same terms can be applied to organizations. After all, organizations are human systems," Lowe said.

From working with sustainable design and construction methods, to helping boost the bee population, the possibilities are endless when it comes to creating a positive work environment.

On Your Feet

With a growing trend to introduce active design methods at the workplace, there are a variety of sit/stand furniture, height-adjustable tables and on-desk solutions available at the office. An aligned spine, engaged core and reduced pain are all benefits of sit-stand desks. London-based furniture manufacturer Belair Office Products recognizes the importance of ergonomic, flexible workstations.

"Sedentary work environments are no good - you shouldn't stay in one place all the time. But if you are standing all day, that's bad, too. So the real solution is to move around - have an option," said Scott Vanderform, Belair's VP design and development. He cites the manufacturer's Altitude line of sit-stand and multi-stations and workstations, mobile pedestals and L-, J- and U-shaped workstations as examples offering a healthier work environment.

"We're seeing more touchdown points, where teams leave their regular desks to have a quick meeting," Vanderform said. "It may be a standing-height table, or even a group of couches. But we need to remember that wellness is more than just office furniture. It's proper lighting, atmosphere, colours and exercise - moving."

Education First

Lovers atWork in London takes great pride in its offering of flexible furniture and workstations. Rodney Lover, director of sales and marketing, points to pieces like "simple standing desks, larger standing workstations that link up in cubicles, fancier executive styles so standing can be done in posher private offices, and work bars." But the customer's health comes first, said in-house certified office ergonomics evaluator Chris Hollywood.

"A healthy workplace isn't about a single product. There isn't a quick fix desk or chair out there that will prevent all of our work-related discomfort. It requires a holistic approach involving diet, exercise, the right equipment and most importantly, education," Hollywood said. "Employers also need to understand that providing their workers with a healthy workplace will save them thousands of dollars a year of lost time and increase productivity, all while improving the image of their company to current staff, new hires and clients."

Namaste At Work

Workplace stress can be a silent killer. The World Health Organization defines positive mental health as "a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. In the workplace there can be no health without mental health."

The benefits of yoga are now widely accepted by the Western world, thanks to its body, mind and spirit cleansing. Prana Yoga Wellness in London brings yoga, as well as other stress management tools like meditation and nutrition education, into the office - before 9-to-5 stresses kick in, and during lunch hours. Owner Chantelle Diachina and her seven instructors offer what they call "on-the-mat" and "off-the-mat" teachings to give employees tools they can us at work and at home.

"Everything we teach focuses on stress management," Diachina explained. "It's not so much icing on the cake, but more meat and potatoes of a workplace, which is really exciting."

Better Business By Design

Design Matrix Inc. interior design studio in London buys into the WELL building standards defined by the Canada Green Building Council. WELL is the first building standard to focus exclusively on the health and wellness of the people in buildings, marrying best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research. It promotes the harnessing of the built environment as a vehicle to support human health and wellbeing.

"Designers have always known the value of designing spaces that support the people who use them," said Design Matrix interior designer Paula Burns, "(but) the trend is employers are recognizing this need."

Design Matrix assisted in the design of Sifton Properties' Sifton Centre at West 5 sustainable community in London - Ontario's only Net Zero community which offers advanced and innovative technologies that give it the potential to generate as much energy as it uses in a year. The Sifton office here incorporates a table for group lunches, booths for more private discussions, flexible lounge seating for group activities, improved views and natural light. In addition, it features a reception area using window film designed to bring aspects of nature into the office yet keep a balance of privacy. And there are images of the Sifton bog throughout.

Working Out, Wellness Inseparable

There's no reason why a home-headquartered entrepreneur can't incorporate exercise equipment into their suburban-based business. But when you are GoodLife Fitness, you do this on a larger scale. That's where Square Feet Design owner Lori Ireland came in with a plan to make the new 60,000-sq.-ft. GoodLife corporate office on Proudfoot Lane live up to its corporate promise.

A warm, friendly, high-energy environment promoting workplace wellness and movement features fitness and activity-based equipment, including treadmill work stations, basketball hoops, TRX suspension apparatus, spin bikes and a ping pong table meeting room. The 300-plus workstations have height-adjustable desks. The building design fosters teamwork with a variety of space options, both open and enclosed. You can even sit on a hanging basket or exercise ball in a chill room. Of course, there's a central staircase - not elevator - below a large living wall. And spinning chairs occupy grass turf in a central atrium.

"(GoodLife) is setting the tone at its head office for every member they reach out to at their clubs," Ireland said. "It's not just about working out. It's about overall wellness."

Busy Bees

It's not enough for digital marketing company Arcane to look after employees at its 30,000-sq.-ft. office on Talbot Street. President and CEO Eric Vardon said Arcane is also an official Bee City, part of a North American movement to support pollinator protection.

"We have bee hives on our rooftop patio, and have a water source for our bees so they can navigate locally to pollinate. Our goal is to have a full rooftop garden, with our own fruits and vegetables," Vardon explained.

Arcane has a Health and Wellness committee, and includes within its walls an ampitheatre, collaborative open-concept workspaces, wellness guest speakers, creative walls, lounge areas and organic fruit, vegetables and coffee. Said Vardon, "We're investing in our people."

Shades Of Green

London design firm ReDesign loves to promote that it is "drunk on design … a pursuit of passion not bounded by definition, but defined through the crafting of modern structures, spaces and objects that resonate and perform." Yet no two office spaces are the same, according to co-owner Jerry Banman. That's why ReDesign lives by its "Shades of Green" philosophy.

"Green design is a buzz phrase - it's what people want: sustainable design. But while certifications look great on paper and in promotional material, every office is unique," Banman said. "Costs aren't always practical. You must define the key sustainable strategies you can incorporate that fit your corporate culture without pushing your budget beyond reason. If you don't see enough value in promoting health, then it's going to be tough to justify."

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