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Erin McDannald's Strategies For A Healthier, Happier Workforce

From air quality to community spaces, discover how to create an office that doesn't just house your workforce, but elevates them.

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This article was originally published by WorkDesign Magazine.

  • In the quest for a flourishing workforce, Erin McDannald — CEO of Lighting Environments Elevated and luminary in commercial real estate design — casts new light on the art of crafting workspaces on the Allwork.Space Future of Work podcast.
  • McDannald shared the transformative power of compassionate design, advocating for work environments that invest in human potential and reap the rewards in real estate performance.
  • She delved into the essential elements business owners should integrate to foster health, happiness, and high productivity in the office.

In the quest for peak productivity and employee well-being, the blueprint for success may just lie in the very design of your workspace.

Gone are the days when work environments were a sea of gray cubicles; today’s innovative leaders recognize that the physical office can be a powerful tool to enhance health, focus, and overall job satisfaction.

Recently we had the pleasure of speaking to Erin McDannald, commercial real estate expert and CEO of Lighting Environments Elevated, on the Allwork.Space Future of Work podcast.

McDannald’s extensive experience as an interior designer and lighting manufacturer’s representative has positioned her successfully to create expertly designed, connected, and flexible workspaces tailored to enhance the well-being and productivity of the modern workforce.

“I think we need to build buildings a little bit differently. I think we need to have a little bit of compassion for the end user in the spaces,” McDannald said on our podcast. “I think that compassion can translate into investment in humans, therefore translate into a better performing piece of real estate.”

Business owners: consider these design elements for your office

The modern workplace is about more than just desks, offices, and cubicles; the physical space can have a profound impact on employee health, engagement, and performance. As a business owner, optimizing your office environment is one of the most effective yet overlooked ways to create a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce. Here are some science-backed strategies for designing a smart, human-centric workplace: First, pay attention to air quality. Indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air, with elevated levels of carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and other contaminants that can cause lethargy, and headaches, and worsen allergies or asthma. Monitor indoor air quality with sensors, open windows regularly, and upgrade ventilation systems to provide adequate fresh air. Keep humidity between 40-60% for optimal comfort and health. With better air quality, studies show performance on cognitive tasks can improve by up to 15%.

“Having a building that’s actually healthy would increase employee retention,” McDannald said. Secondly, bring nature in. Employees with views of nature or ample daylight sleep better, report fewer ailments, and are more focused — even boosting productivity levels by over 9%. Maximize windows and skylights, install light shelves to distribute daylight deeper into the office, and incorporate live plants. Consider a green wall with cascading greenery to delight employees. Promoting movement is also key. Long periods of sitting still wreak havoc on our bodies and focus levels. Introduce sit/stand desks so employees can alternate postures, and encourage regular breaks — little two-minute walks around the office can work wonders. Well-placed foot rails, mini staircases, and open visually-connected stairs cue movement.

Office design needs to also mentally impact employees

Moreover, supports mental health through an intentionally calming atmosphere. Workplace stress contributes heavily to burnout and resignations. Consider acoustic panels to absorb sound, designated quiet zones, muted cool-toned paint colors, and artwork or hallway views showcasing nature. Last but not least, foster community with spaces to connect, formally or informally. The social workplace experience matters; loneliness at work can literally make us sick. Have open collaboration areas, a central cafe zone, and small nooks for private calls or recharging breaks. While lengthy meetings in enclosed rooms deplete oxygen and energy, aim to nurture quality social connections. Optimizing for employee health and performance ultimately benefits your business’s bottom line through improved focus, decision-making, creativity, and retention. Use these evidence-backed strategies to shape an office that supports both productivity and well-being. Investing in your employees and their environment is investing in sustainable success.

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