Guest post by Sarah Wilen with Mike Sayre, PLASTARC

Wellness is a hot topic in the world of work, and that’s no surprise; with the US job market continuing to steam ahead, workplace wellness initiatives can help attract talent. Investing in wellness has also been shown to be good for long-term business.

At the nexus of both wellness and performance is employee choice. Studies have shown that a sense of autonomy drives workplace satisfaction. It’s also been demonstrated that employees perform better when they have control over their own space. Micromanagement is cited as one of the top reasons people leave their jobs, and is a drain on long-term performance. Though we think of it as a day-to-day leadership challenge, micromanagement can also manifest in the workplace and how it’s designed. Think about the spaces at your workplace and the tools people are given to do their work.

Can people on your team choose how and when to do what’s asked of them? Autonomy feeds off of intrinsic motivation—the desire to do something for its own sake, as opposed to being driven by external rewards. The best way to get a person to do what’s required—assuming they were the right hire in the first place—is to let them choose how to do their job. One way to do this is to implement a practice like Activity-Based Working (ABW). This can encourage people to move around and choose the best setting for a particular task. One inspiring example of prioritizing both wellness and choice is one in which a hospital mapped out a one-mile route for walking meetings, equipping it with pop-up desks that are ready for ad hoc meetings.

People also exercise choice at work through customization of their space. This is a trickier proposition in an office that makes use of an open plan or hot desks, neither of which provide much space for putting up those family photos. Workplaces that have adopted these arrangements can return autonomy to workers by providing spaces and furniture that are re-configurable, like large flat tables that enable a wide range of uses. User-centric technology can also support customization by providing, for instance, the ability to easily set the temperature of a conference room. Asking for input on things like the snacks provided in the break room can also help. Ultimately, a holistic approach is likely to be most effective; certifications like FitWel and the WELL Building Standard™ can be helpful here.

The spaces we create communicate our values. By building environments that enable people to exercise choice as often as possible, we convey that we trust them to do their job. A greater focus on autonomy and wellness can ensure that everyone is healthier and happier at work.