In a recent article the National Geographic reported how building design can have an impact on people, specifically in the context of workspaces. Coworking spaces are in a unique position as a service provider as they cater to a neuro-diverse range of people, more so than regular offices spaces. For example, in our space we have people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as well as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), this means that the physical space has to cater to the wellbeing of various cognitive profiles. Furthermore, we have a duty to provide a healthy space for the people that come into our space, despite not having the responsibility of an HR department who has to ensure employees are productive and healthy.
As more people enter the gig, freelance or startup economy, coworking spaces should begin to question, how their space design affects the wellbeing of its inhabitants. The National Geographic article put forward five cornerstones to a healthy workspace, here we break and narrow them down to three.
Light: Having access to natural light is very important to both cognitive functions like focus and memory but also biological functions such as metabolism and sleep.
Plants: Plants are great to clean the air from toxins and pollutants, which can then have biological effects on people. NASA conducted and released a study on the different type of plants that are ideal for cleaning your air as well as the amount per square footage.
Active Design: This is has to do with how much movement a space prompts people to move. There are increasingly more studies that showcase on the consequences of sitting for long periods of time on our health. It can influence everything from circulation, back problems, to digestions issues.
We would also add that spaces should be enriched, this is more of a term coming from neuroscience. Its roots are based on rat/mice studies, where scientists looked at enriching their environments through the addition of more rodents and different points of activity. The official scientific definition of enriched environment is a space that has a combination of complex physical and social stimulation. For the purposes of humans and workspaces this would translate on a physical space that gives people affordance. That means different choices for social and physical interaction. Designing a coworking space that provides different places to think, eat, collaborate, concentrate, socialise is essential to the mental health of the people in the space. Depending on the task load and how someone feels, the coworking space should be able to offer a choice that matches. Otherwise, people could start to feel uncomfortable and alienated in the space.
THECUBE London, since its start in 2008, has been in constantly researching how to make the space better for our community. We offer affordance, natural light, and an abundance of plants. We have also kept natural materials through the space from wood to cork not just for visual texture but to avoid our members interacting with toxic materials. Finally, we take care to curate the community so each person has a variety of potentially interesting social interactions with the people in the space. Wellbeing that is influenced by space is a clever orchestration of the aforementioned elements, not just copying and pasting a one size fits design metrics.