As we navigate the changing workplace with our healthcare clients in our current projects, I have been thinking a lot about the importance of amenities. Healthcare can be a rewarding but challenging field, so supporting staff through workplace design and amenities is even more important now. An article I recently read resonated with me: “It’s all about investing in resources that remove friction from employees’ day. In other words, the best workplace amenities are the ones your employees hardly even notice – and ideally won’t remember.” It made me start thinking about amenities that make the workday easier so healthcare staff can focus on patient care.
The most important amenities of all are the most basic ones. Recent studies show that employees’ environmental features like fresh air access to natural light and thermal comfort value the most. I found this study reported in the Harvard Business Review really interesting:
“Surprisingly, we found employees want the basics first: better air quality, access to natural light, and the ability to personalize their workspace. Half of the employees we surveyed said poor air quality makes them sleepier during the day, and more than a third reported up to an hour of lost productivity as a result. In fact, air quality and light were the biggest influencers of employee performance, happiness, and wellbeing, while fitness facilities and technology-based health tools were the most trivial.”
For many years, employers have been focusing on providing features such as fitness centers or advanced technology as amenities. What this study shows is we need to address the work environment first. At the Zimmerman Architectural Studios office, bipolar ionization units were installed on our air handlers to improve indoor air quality. The intent of these devices is to ionize any particles (including viruses like Covid) so they attract neutrally charged particles in the air. The particles then become too heavy to “float” in the air and fall to the floor. Solutions like adding ionization units or changing air filters more frequently can help improve indoor air quality and in turn improve employee health and satisfaction. Once we have provided healthcare staff with an optimal physical environment, then we should focus on other features they value.
As healthcare facilities vary, so do the types of amenities that their staff desires. In our large academic medical center projects, clinical staff who work at multiple locations often don’t have a permanent office or have an office located across campus. For this type of healthcare worker, it is important to have amenities convenient to the clinical space where they work with patients. Bringing resources to staff will remove the friction from their day and increase their satisfaction.
It’s important to make taking breaks and eating meals convenient for staff who have a busy day of patient care. We should create spaces that allow staff to balance work and life while allowing camaraderie and collaboration to occur. Another important space to locate adjacent to the clinical work area are lounge and respite spaces. We have heard from many clients they see an increase in staff using respite spaces and plan on adding more rooms.
Once we have addressed the environmental and space needs for healthcare staff, we can then focus on providing service amenities. If you are a healthcare administrator, this is a great time to survey your staff to find out what services they would really appreciate. Providing amenities that staff value helps improve satisfaction and retention. We can probably agree most people don’t use dry cleaning pick-up services much now. Instead, let’s think about services that remove friction from the work for busy healthcare staff:
- Ready-made meals that staff can pick up from the cafeteria to take home
- On-site childcare that makes drop-off and pick-up easy
- Easy access to support services including mental health counseling
- Opportunities to get outside such as walking trails where staff can fit in a quick exercise break or a walking meeting
- Lockers rooms and showers for staff who walk or bike to work
Designing a healthy environment with good air quality and access to daylight is the foundation of a good workplace. Once the foundation is set, then we can focus on creating spaces and opportunities that allow healthcare staff to balance their work and life, take a breath, and release the tension. Supporting the emotional and physical health of healthcare staff through workplace amenities is critical for the entire healthcare organization. Showing healthcare staff that they are valued goes a long way to improve satisfaction and retention.