Kevin Butler and Kelly Ennis go into a lot of big companies and talk about well-being. The ergonomist and office design expert often work with companies who want more of a focus on well-being in the workplace, and, of course, make it work with their bottom line.
With so many people who start businesses wanting to create an ideal place to work, startups often take advantage of a unique opportunity to work well-being into their workplace from the get-go, Butler told a small group seated around the Betamore couches.
“A lot of startups have that feel and vibe right out of the gate,” said Butler, a senior ergnomist and well-being consultant at Steelcase.
At the end of the day, it's about creating the right space where people can interact and be human.
The real challenge is keeping the well-being in place as the startup grows.
“The big companies come back to us and say, ‘How do I regain the energy that I had when we were a startup?'” Butler said.
At those larger companies, leaders often take steps like instituting a fitness program, leaving fruit out or moving furniture around. But just doing those things on their own isn’t enough, Ennis said. Fitting those elements into an overall culture is most important.
“Culture is key to really aligning a space with any sort of wellness program,” Ennis said. “Well-being and wellness is really in danger of becoming yet another buzzword. … At the end of the day, it’s about creating the right space where people can interact and be human.”
Ennis used the example of the very space where the audience sat at Betamore, where her firm The Verve Partnership consulted on design.
Along with the couches and open feel, she pointed to the fact that the training room in the rear of the Federal Hill campus was once used to teach yoga classes. That represents the flexibility that’s part of Betamore’s culture, Ennis said. And once the design is in place, there’s no reason to stop.
“Continuing to talk to people who use the space on a fairly regular basis to make little adjustments is so important,” said Betamore Director of Education Michele Farquharson.
Betamore has a phone booth for private calls. People used it, but some said it would be better to have a shelf for computers. So Farquharson brought her dad and brothers into work and installed shelves. Members also requested a skinny table by the windows overlooking the city and M&T Bank Stadium, and now it’s used all the time. They may seem like small fixes, but the ability to have a say in their workplace and seeing responsiveness in turn makes people happier.
“It makes people feel good when they feel heard, and there’s a true wellness factor there,” Ennis said.