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Six Design Principles to Support Wellbeing

Photography by Hedrich Blessing

By Rebecca Charbauski

What do busy workers need most from their workplaces today?  First and foremost, they need it to be human centered; a workplace crafted to mentally excite and engage, physically comfort and emotionally support the people that work there. Although many have predicted the death of the office since mobile technologies allow workers the ability to be productive on the go, people have discovered they need more. Needs for collaboration, team building and individual focus are just a few reasons employees are heavily relying on their office to provide them with access to the people and tools they need to get work done.

As employees return to the office, the workspaces of yesterday don’t meet the needs of today. The new office needs to combine design, materiality and performance to create spaces where people can be their best selves. 

Steelcase designers partnered with PDR to create a workplace that supports the holistic wellbeing of its employees. PDR employed its InsideOut approach and used Steelcase’s six design principles to help achieve the right balance of spaces that support people’s emotional, cognitive and physical wellbeing.

1. Democratize the space

Photography by Hedrich Blessing

Similar to a healthy ecosystem in nature that is biodiverse, PDR created a range of spaces that support different types of work that people can choose to work from, regardless of where they fit within the organization’s hierarchy. Spaces for large team meetings, small group conversations and private moments to focus all support the modern worker’s needs.

2. Support multiple postures and movement

Photography by Hedrich Blessing

PDR’s design incorporates spaces that allow people to work in whatever posture works for them – lounging, standing, perching, walking or sitting upright.

3. Take cues from nature

Photography by Hedrich Blessing

More than just adding plants, PDR sought variation over uniformity. They incorporated naturally complex materials, lots of different shapes, forms, patterns and textures. Their space also accentuates the benefits of lots of natural light.

4. Embed performance

Photography by Hedrich Blessing

The most inviting and inspiring spaces need to help people make meaningful progress on their work. PDR integrated technology that makes it easier for people to collaborate, encourages movement and makes it easier to get into flow.

5. Promote personalization

Create spaces that feel bespoke to the organization and the individual. PDR prioritized authenticity and designed informal spaces to help employees feel comfortable at work.

6. Add needed privacy

Balance the desire for openness with the human need for solitude. PDR created spaces that support focused work, as well as rejuvenation.

PDR regularly evaluates their changing work needs and employs their InsideOut approach, which was used to discover that their employees were seeking additional private spaces. Susan Cain Quiet Spaces from Steelcase added more private areas.  The spaces use VIA walls to redefine part of the space and offer acoustical privacy for confidential conversations, uninterrupted collaboration or heads down focus work.

Rebecca Charbauski


Rebecca, is a an Emmy-winning journalist, reports on global research impacting the places where people work, learn and heal. Over her career, Rebecca spent 17 years covering local and national news events on television and a variety of digital platforms. 

To read more from Steelcase’s global design team about the strategies to create thoughtfully-curated destinations that blend design, materiality and performance, we invite you to read the latest issue of 360 Magazine, “The Office Renaissance: A Rebirth. And Why It Matters” and 360 Latest News.