Healthcare spaces have taken considerable strides to not only address the immediate needs of the pandemic, but the evolving needs of patients and faculty, especially as pandemic, economic and job-related stresses continue to mount. Here, the waiting room sits at the front lines. As the gateways to health and wellness, these offices can set the tone of for the entire patient experience, and by implementing several wellness design choices, one can better help create a sense of calm and wellbeing among their staff and patients.
In an article with Chiropractic Economics, Joanna Terry, director of Vertical Markets at National Business Furniture, shares her expertise in healthcare and design when creating wellness-centered office spaces.
1. Wellness-Centered Design
“Seeking care can be anxiety-inducing for many people,” states Terry. “Some visitors prefer privacy and quiet for reflection, where others might wish for socialization opportunities as a means of distraction,” Terry says. “Offering a variety of waiting space seating can provide both.”
“It’s important to ensure that all visitors are accommodated in a way that preserves dignity. This might mean offering bariatric seating, hip chairs for those with mobility issues and dedicated room for those in wheelchairs.”
Furniture that focuses on safety is a core element in these designs, however Terry also emphasizes the importance of what she calls “positive distractions.” These include artwork and palettes that feature soft tones like blue or green to create a more calming atmosphere. Outdoor views and plants can lessen anxiety, and, according to scientific studies can even lower blood pressure levels and alleviate depression.
Sound, too, plays an important part, Terry stresses. Whether its white noise, soft music or a relaxing mix of natural sounds, the audio profile of a space can help instill a sense of comfort and wellbeing in patients and staff alike.
2. Ergonomic Features in Furniture
For staff and patients alike, the right furniture is crucial for maintaining health and comfort. As such, staff seating that offers several adjustments like lumbar support and sliding seat adjustments are a must. It’s also worth considering adding adjustable height desks so that staff have the option to stand for portions of the day to reduce stress and increase bloodflow.
And while patient seating isn’t meant to be sat in for long periods, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be a key focus in building out a space.
“Look for firm, commercial-grade foam that will comfortably support the user, a waterfall seat edge to promote blood circulation and built-in lumbar support in the back cushions,” Terry. “Pay attention to chair armrests, which should offer a grip for patients to use to assist with exiting the chair.
Of course, all chairs and surface need to also be able to sustain the rigors of regular cleaning and disinfection as well.
3. Staff-Centered Spaces
Too often, staff break spaces are either overlooked or are implemented as an afterthought, laments Terry. Comfortable seating, along with tables and chairs for a quick meal are essential, as well as ample storage for personal belongings and food.
“Making sure staff areas are appealing can help prevent burnout and fatigue — and can help prevent medical errors,” Terry says. “If your space allows for it, offer access to daylight or the outdoors, which can help users relax. Don’t forget to include all staff — maintenance, office workers and cleaners (among others) are working hard during this stressful time.”