FUTURE OFFICE DESIGNS COULD INCLUDE ‘BREAKOUT PODS’ TO REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY
BY Zoe Phoon
Dutch creators, architect firm UNStudio and social design agency Scape, envisage many big companies will install “breakout pods” at their workplace in the near future.
Examples are secluded pods that allow workers to meditate, or even smash things or scream to reduce workplace stress.
Studies in the United States show employees are feeling less energetic, more agitated and getting less sleep due to increased demand at the workplace.
Such stress is causing them to experience physical and psychological symptoms, fight with people close to them, and have more accidents on the job.
Missed work days and healthcare due to workplace stress in the US cost employers $300 billion a year.
Meanwhile, Scape founder Jeff Povlo said the figures based on his own research are just as worrying outside of the US.
In Europe, work related stress costs the EU €20 billion a year and in Australia A$14.2 billion.
Povlo said the financial cost of stress is going to force companies to start taking projects like Reset pods seriously.
UNStudio and Scape have teamed up to design a series of pods that can be installed inside different types of office environment, according to architecture and design magazine dezeen.
But unlike similar products on the market, these modular units offer a variety of stress reduction techniques.
Occupants can engage in active or passive activities ranging from yoga to drumming or singing. One pod features walls that light up when touched.
UNStudio founder Ben van Berkel said the two firms have introduced a stress-free zone where people can physically and emotionally reset themselves.
They presented prototypes of the Reset pods during the recent Milan 2017 Design Week.
Van Berkel and Povlo worked with scientists to add another feature to their Reset pod – a tracking system with biosensors, which scans a user’s brain and offers realtime feedback about how it responded to different experiences.
Both believe this makes the pods more attractive to companies as the latter will be able to physically measure the impact they have made on the health of their staff, which in turn will lead to higher productivity.
Many of UNStudio’s projects introduced pioneering approaches to improving the social and physical health of occupants –from the sloping walkways of the curvaceous Arnhem station in the Netherlands to the seamless network of spaces at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.
Van Berkel said there are many ways of adapting buildings to improve health.
As part of an ongoing research project with Harvard, he has been exploring various areas that need significant improvement.
“We have the possibility now to work with artificial intelligence, virtual reality and more; we just need to integrate the right hardware and the software into the development of architecture,” he said.