Can the design of a workspace improve health, energy levels and productivity? At the Basel office of PwC Switzerland, the answer is an emphatic yes. Employee well-being is an important business objective for PwC Switzerland and at the company’s Basel office the goal became a key priority when commissioning new office interiors.
The office, which was created by the award-winning Swiss architecture and design studio Evolution Design and completed in July 2016, has been specifically designed with employee well-being in mind. Every aspect, from workstations to social spaces, team areas and relaxation rooms, is built around four key pillars of health: activity, attitude, rest and nutrition. The result is one of the first offices in Switzerland that makes employee well-being its primary focus.
‘Movement and activity are crucial for energy and health,’ says Evolution Design executive director Stefan Camenzind. ‘PwC Switzerland already offers classes such as pilates and yoga to its employees, so we focused on how the workplace design can support more movement.’
After research and consultation with PwC employees, three key work typologies were established. The Focus Space is a desk area where employees can work on their own projects while still being part of a team environment. In the Quiet Zone, a place without phones and with private spaces ranging from booths to desks, it’s possible to concentrate without interruption or noise. For group tasks, the Team Space features large shared desks, whiteboards and walls on which it’s possible to pin project work.
‘Sitting at a desk all day is not very healthy. It’s better to walk and move around and to work in different positions. The challenge for us was to create spaces that work so well that people will get up and move to different areas when they are doing different tasks,’ says Stefan Camenzind.
Along with choosing ergonomic chairs and height adjustable desks, each area also makes use of a variety of chair and table types, ranging from low sofas and coffee tables to taller stools against bar height desks. ‘The spaces are designed that people can sit and move in different ways. We want people to become more active within their working hours, but we don’t want to be prescriptive in how they do this.’
In busy, high intensity offices, workspace design can also have an important role to play in creating a positive mindset and improving mental health. At PwC Switzerland’s office in Basel, Evolution Design focused on empowering employees as a way to help manage stress levels and increase energy levels. The office space offers a wide choice of working areas and employees are free to choose the kind of work environment that best suits their mood and task at any given time – whether that’s meeting in a think tank, working at the bar in the sociable coffee zones or using a phone booth for greater privacy when making phone calls.
Each of the spaces is designed with cues that signify its use. The Quiet Work Area, for example, employs calm green tones and is subtly divided for privacy and to aid noise reduction. ‘We believe empowering people is the most effective way to reduce stress levels,’ says Tanya Ruegg, Evolution Design creative director. ‘The design here is all about making it easy and enjoyable for people to do a task in the best way possible. It’s functional, but also emotional – people can choose where and how to work.’
Corporate engagement is another important factor in creating a positive attitude. ‘People want to be proud of their workplace and the company they work for,’ says Tanya Ruegg, and Evolution Design has used colour and communication tools – including photography and graphic design – to ensure the office is an inspiring three dimensional representation of the culture, attitude and mindset of PwC Switzerland.
Rest and relaxation
If power napping at your desk is more likely to earn approbation than applause at your office, the reverse is true at PwC Switzerland’s Basel office, where Evolution Design has created a room specifically for relaxation. Employing natural motifs and organic shapes and with low-level lighting and music, it comes complete with state of the art massage chairs and the MetroNap Energy Pod, a rejuvenation space designed for taking power naps.
‘The relaxation room is a very important part of the design. PwC Switzerland understands that it’s not possible to go at full speed all the time, this is why the company briefed us to encourage employees to relax and recharge their energy levels,’ says Stefan Camenzind. ‘Several studies have shown that power napping significantly improves concentration. While it may seem strange now to take a nap at work, in the future it will be people who don’t take time out to relax who are seen as being irresponsible.’
Eat your way to health
The final pillar in the company’s health and wellbeing manifesto is that of nutrition. Evolution Design has created a series of graphics throughout the office space to remind and motivate people to eat well. Healthy snacks, fruit and water are also on offer – each year employees of PwC Switzerland consume some 21,000 kg of fruit.
The office design includes various spaces in which to eat and relax. Key to the design are the numerous coffee points, which serve both as social hubs and places for spontaneous meetings. As Stefan Camenzind points out: ‘Sharing knowledge and exchanging ideas in this way improves creativity and also helps to build relationships which has a positive impact on general well-being.’ There’s also a new 7th floor roof terrace, which is proving a popular place for lunch in the sunshine.
It’s clear that working healthily is about far more than just ergonomics. The recipe for success requires a subtle blend of planning, creativity and humanity: providing variety and choice in workspaces that recognise the importance of both teamwork and singular tasks, acknowledging the role of informal networks and taking into consideration individual needs such as nutrition, relaxation and empowerment. In this respect the Basel office of PwC Switzerland is an excellent example of working your way to well-being.
Location: Basel, Switzerland
Area: 4,300 sqm
Architects: Evolution Design
Photographs: Peter Wuermli