Traditionally, the way design has been applied has been constrained in many ways – by gender stereotypes, by the language used to describe it, by a lack of consideration for inclusivity or for the wellbeing of the people using the space being designed, to give a few examples.
It is heartening to see things are evolving, although we still have a long way to go. However, I believe that by encouraging others to open their minds to the many ways we can use design to create more diverse and inclusive spaces, especially in workplaces, we can pick up the pace of positive change.
How my view of design has changed
I’m a passionate designer. This means I’m enthusiastic about what I do and I especially love seeing the aesthetics of a great design concept come together.
But as with most things in life there is change and my relationship with design has evolved over time.
I spend hours researching, reading, watching and investigating the impact that design has in its role as a tool for life.
I love seeing design . . .
- used as a tool for businesses to grow, evolve and innovate;
- used as a tool for changing behaviour and for assisting in breaking down gender barriers and stereotypes;
- playing a key part in including diversity in culture and gender;
- supporting businesses in their HR retention and acquisition strategies.
As my design career matures, I see design far less in visual terms and more as a multi-sensory experience that has a lasting impact on people.
It is this that dictates how we think, feel and behave in the spaces around us.
Design in the workplace
Design has long been considered a great tool for the retention and acquisition of staff.
After all, that’s why installing gimmicky slides or rock-climbing walls was all the rage at one point.
Now, a business is more likely to make a health and wellbeing space available because they want it to positively impact the physical and emotional health of staff. It’s no longer a means to an end, but an end in itself.
August started with World Breastfeeding Week, which was an opportunity to create awareness around the need for a multipurpose space where breastfeeding and breast pumping can take place. Such places also offer privacy for prayer, power napping and meditation.
The presence of such spaces in a work environment raises questions about the value they add and whether they help support either new mums to return to the workforce or allow staff to feel supported in their personal health and wellbeing.
In the past, health and wellbeing has taken many shapes and forms – for some businesses it was weekly yoga or a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) bootcamp, while for others it was simply a company-supplied fruit bowl.
The pandemic has put far more pressure on businesses and the built environment to play a larger role in people’s emotional and physical health and welfare. Wellbeing, safety and hygiene considerations have come to the fore.
Now, spaces are evolving to meet user needs. A wellness ecosystem is resilient; it is focused on health, diversity and inclusivity.