On Monday August 8th the Social Science + Architecture Committee and friends gathered at Steelcase’s beautiful showroom to enjoy an evening of socializing and provocations from James Brewer, Suzanne Nienaber, and Allie Mazur. All three shared personal work that related to wellness and the built environment set perfectly in the summertime when we have the most access to the outdoors and locally sourced foods.
By the end of the evening we were all statistically above average, having spent way more than the US average of 20 minutes per day out of doors.
The evening started with a great introduction by committee co-chairs Melissa Marsh and Evie Klein who gave an overview of some of the great events the Social Science + Architecture Committee has put on in 2016. The audience was able to get a look at feedback from many of these events and see how the committee is using this data to create future events. This topic is not unfamiliar to the Social Science + Architecture Committee who have attended and organized similar events in the past. After a look towards upcoming events Melissa and Evie introduced Steelcase host and first provocateur James Brewer.
James who has a background in design, marketing, and sales management welcomed everyone to the space and shared his insights from a workplace engagement survey and how design is impacting occupant engagement and wellbeing. Engagement, movement, access to colleagues, and workplace culture were all key aspects that help to predict engagement and wellbeing in the workplace. As James so eloquently put it, "if you take healthy people and connect them to something that gives them a sense of purpose then you have engagement". He raised the question of how built environments can hinder these social connections and the Steelcase survey helps to pinpoint ways to mitigate these hindrances.
James passed the mic to Suzanne Nienaber who brought the perspective to the built world and urban environment. Suzanne gave a great overview of how the Center for Active Design (CFAD) grew out of the NY Active Design Guidelines. CFAD does work that engages and champions for physical well being, mental health, and civic engagement. Suzanne shared the CFAD latest initiative called Fitwel, a certification program what has been piloted to a select few organizations before being made public. Fitwel uses 60 low cost high-impact strategies like location lighting, circulation, and workstation design that can all achieve the goal of a healthier workplace. Suzanne ended with this provocation: "how can we elevate design as an essential tool for public health?"
Allie Mazur does growth operations for Exubrancy and provided some insights on the two year old corporate wellness company. Exubrancy offers in-office meditation, fitness classes, and chair massages to workplaces globally. Exubrancy is trying to bring these programs to all companies, not just the newer, open-floor plan LinkedIn’s of the world which can require some creative design solutions. Allie explained Exubrancy’s survey tool that helps to measure the impact of their services in the workplace and how corporate wellness programs like these might shape the built environment in the future.
In the spirit of this being a social, the last 45 minutes of the evening were dedicated to socializing, sharing ideas and insights about wellness, enjoying wine and taking in some Vitamin D on Steelcase’s stunning rooftop. By the end of the evening we were all statistically above average, having spent way more than the US average of 20 minutes per day out of doors.