Guest blog by Jennifer Walton and Susan Dwyer, H. Hendy Associates

Healthcare as we know it is expected to have a dramatic shift by 2040, according to Deloitte. This healthcare industry metamorphosis, which is paving the way for significant technological advancements, will not only transition our thinking from health “care” to health “maintenance” but also will place a larger emphasis on detection and prevention rather than treatment.

How will all this impact the corporate office? The short answer is that it will demand a new iteration of workplace wellness and design, an approach that already is taking place in office environments today. Future workplaces will require a new level of wellness integration and health-promoting technology – that will go beyond onsite fitness facilities and biophilic design – to truly enhance employee well-being (and in turn, reduce already rising healthcare costs). The following are key healthcare trends and advancements that will redefine office design in 2020 and beyond.

Wearables and Sensor Technology

Healthcare costs are the second-largest operating expense after employee wages. With this cost projected to double by 2030, employers are feeling the pressure to seek out solutions that mitigate the hidden costs associated with poor employee health, which also can lead to turnover, lack of productivity and disengagement. Wearables and sensor technology, a 500-million-unit market by 2021, are mainstream in the consumer world and we can anticipate companies implementing this technology in future office designs.

Consider this: a new sensor technology is placed on your office chair, your computer mouse and monitor. The device is tracking your movements, posture and vitals. Beyond reporting out stress and blood pressure levels, the data also informs you when you need to take a break or change locations. It also can give you warning signals for activities and risks that can lead to illness and injury. Now that’s an office of the future.

Invigoration Spaces

Many workplaces today feature coworking spaces and open office environments to encourage collaboration. And while these spaces foster teamwork and inspire creativity, research shows that employees in open office environments lose on average 86 minutes a day to distraction. Not to mention, it takes workers nearly 20 minutes to regain focus once disrupted. In order to get the most out of their collaboration spaces, employers will also need to create designated places within the office that mitigate distraction and promote invigoration.

These “invigoration zones” will allow overstimulated workers to retreat and re-energize. Think indoor gardens that promote reflection; sensory deprivation tanks to rebalance and re-center; and meditation rooms equipped with virtual reality to promote relaxation by virtually transporting employees from an office to their chosen oasis.

With stress and overstimulation costing U.S. employers up to $300 billion a year, healthcare advancements will enable people – and companies – to focus on health and wellness at the core of an office design. By integrating wearables and sensor technology, companies can encourage healthy choices, mitigate stress, disengagement and absenteeism and better understand the types of invigoration spaces and wellness design needed to best serve employees. Technology integration can be costly, but the proof is in the pudding: for every dollar an employer invests in its employee’s health, it saves $6 in medical and absenteeism costs, making the office environment a strategic tool for business success.

Jennifer Walton
Susan Dwyer

Jennifer Walton, principal and corporate studio director and Susan Dwyer, project director are licensed architects and LEED-certified professionals at H. Hendy Associates.