Summer is in full swing. The beautiful weather at this time of year always reminds me to appreciate the stunning natural environment in which we live, work and play. At UBC, we are unique in that we are just a short walk away from beaches, forests, gardens and natural wonders that draw tourists from around the globe. With this realization though, my internal motivation to stay inside and work can sometimes take a hit.
On the plus side, research tells us that we do not have to be outside to reap the benefits of our natural surroundings. The new Wellbeing Design Lab in the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) at UBC Vancouver is a great example of how to enhance your physical space in order to optimize wellbeing.
Click on the video below for a virtual tour of the space.
When designing the lab, the wellbeing of its occupants was top of mind. Some of the features in the space include height adjustable desks, a Pacific Spirit Park wall mural, different plant varieties, flexible and varied spaces, and natural light.
Read on to find out how you can boost your health while indoors.
Furniture that can be adapted or customized to suit a variety of needs helps to increase productivity and accessibility while also boosting social connectivity and inclusivity.
Try: Re-arranging your desk layout, adding a keyboard tray or attending a free Sit-Stand Desk Workshop.
Grab some green
Did you know that simply looking at images of nature provides a host of positive health benefits, including decreased stress and improved mood? Also, high-oxygen-producing plants like peace lilies can help to increase productivity and comfort, while reducing stress and sickness in workplaces.
Try: Changing your desktop image and screen saver to a favourite image of nature, or caring for a small plant at your desk or with a group of colleagues.
Find the balance: “Me Space vs. We Space”
Collaboration can help boost connection and creativity, but the healthiest forums for collaboration are the ones where you can identify and use a range of spaces to suit your working needs in the moment. Some examples include collaborative workspaces, quiet office spaces, flex spaces, hot desks/drop-in stations and comfortable lounge spaces.
Try: Identifying and labeling the different areas in your workplace to help ensure everyone knows what type of work fits best in that space, and where they can go to get the level of interaction they require. You could even give the spaces fun names or colour zones.
Let the sun shine
Appropriate levels of natural light and sunshine can improve mood and alertness, minimize disruption to circadian rhythm, enhance productivity, support good sleep quality and provide appropriate visual acuity.
Try: Taking your next break close to a window, or booking a room with natural light for meetings or an hour of quiet work time. No windows? There are lots of great buildings at UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan that provide a wealth of natural light, including the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), AMS Student Nest, Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre, Forest Sciences Centre (bonus, it has plants!) and Okanagan Administration Building (with Sunshine Café!). It’s worth paying them a visit.
This month, as you look wistfully out your window at the beautiful scenery, I encourage you to find new ways to bring that splendor indoors and to see if it improves your health. I also invite you to stop by the Wellbeing Design Lab, Monday to Friday from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. to explore the space.
For more information, including UBC research on the connection between natural environments, physical spaces and health, check out the following:
- Environmentally Smart Design: Designing for Social Wellbeing Across the City and in the Workplace (UBC CWL required)
- Health and Community Design: The Impact of the Built Environment on Physical Activity
- Healthy People with Nature in Mind (UBC CWL Required)
- Natural Environments, Health, and Well-Being
- Rationale to Address Well-being through Physical Spaces in Post-Secondary Settings
Grinde, B., & Patil, G. G. (2009). Biophilia: Does Visual Contact with Nature Impact on Health and Well-Being? Int. J. of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(9), 2332–2343.
Huet, V. Literature review of art therapy-based interventions for work-related stress. Int. J. Art Therapy. 20,66–76 (2015).
Huss, E. & Sarid, O. Visually transforming artwork and guided imagery as a way to reduce work related stress: A quantitative pilot study. Arts Psychother. 41, 409–412 (2014).
Photo credit: UBC Communications and Marketing