Nat­u­ral se­lec­tion

Workspace spe­cial­ist Mi­tie plants the seeds for a mind­ful set-up and well work­ers

Wallpaper - - Officepaper* - dae­whakang.com; mi­tie.com

When one of Lon­don’s big­gest providers of ser­viced of­fice space moved into its own new HQ, it set out to study the ben­e­fits of a well­ness-fo­cused en­vi­ron­ment. Mi­tie is based on the 12th floor of the Shard in Lon­don Bridge, where a team of 200 over­see of­fices for fi­nance, re­tail and man­u­fac­tur­ing clients across the UK and Europe. ‘When we knew we were mov­ing here we saw an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing dif­fer­ent,’ says James Reynold­son, Mi­tie’s head of work­place well­be­ing.

En­ter the ar­chi­tect Dae­wha Kang, a for­mer key staffer at Zaha Ha­did Ar­chi­tects. Based in east Lon­don, Dae­wha Kang De­sign has a spe­cial fo­cus on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween well­be­ing and en­vi­ron­ment, aim­ing to cre­ate in­tri­cate, or­ganic spa­ces that are also hu­man-friendly. ‘We’re wired for cer­tain things; sta­bil­ity, se­cu­rity in space,’ Kang says. ‘This maps di­rectly on the phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. Peo­ple want to see who’s com­ing and have a sense of shel­ter. They want a vis­ual rich­ness. These are phys­i­o­log­i­cal needs.’

At Mi­tie, Kang and his team have set up a fullscale lab ex­per­i­ment with two new ‘well­ness ar­eas’ in­cor­po­rated into the work­place to pro­vide real al­ter­na­tives to reg­u­lar desks. For Reynold­son, it’s a chance to ex­plore prac­tice over the­ory. ‘Ob­vi­ously we’d like to know how we can use this as a launch­pad for fur­ther con­ver­sa­tions with clients,’ he says.

‘Our work is about mea­sur­ably im­prov­ing things through de­sign, beauty and in­no­va­tion,’ says Kang. ‘Ar­chi­tec­ture isn’t just about large-scale sculp­ture. Cre­at­ing a more pro­duc­tive work­ing en­vi­ron­ment is more im­por­tant.’ Set in the build­ing’s win­ter gar­den, Mi­tie’s Liv­ing Lab is el­e­gant but also func­tional, an al­ter­na­tive of­fice space en­veloped by a wooden co­coon and fea­tur­ing bam­boo desks with built-in planters. The light­ing fol­lows a cir­ca­dian cy­cle, but can also be over­rid­den – ‘Con­trol is a real bal­anc­ing act,’ says Reynold­son, ‘it’s work­ing out what works best on a larger scale’ – while a bunch of en­vi­ron­men­tal sen­sors feeds data back to the team.

In ad­di­tion, there are Re­gen­er­a­tion Pods, two carved wooden niches with the city sky­line set out be­fore them. These ded­i­cated spots for 15 min­utes of

re­flec­tion are avail­able to those who sign up, sound­tracked in a vaguely New Age way to drag you away from the daily grind. ‘It’s a state­ment piece, ob­vi­ously,’ says Reynold­son, but nev­er­the­less, the com­pany has scrupu­lously tracked and mon­i­tored its em­ploy­ees’ use and en­joy­ment – or oth­er­wise – of the space. The study, con­ducted with Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Lon­don, com­pared the (self-re­ported) mood and well­be­ing of work­ers us­ing the lab and those at a reg­u­lar set of desks in the main of­fice. The change of en­vi­ron­ment seems to be work­ing, with 81 per cent of par­tic­i­pants re­port­ing the space was more ap­peal­ing to work in. This is partly due to the com­bi­na­tion of day­light – the win­ter gar­den spa­ces are nat­u­rally very bright and also have nat­u­ral ven­ti­la­tion, and also per­haps the psy­cho­log­i­cal boost of feel­ing looked af­ter.

‘Work­places of the fu­ture need to be much more mind­ful,’ Reynold­son con­cludes, although ob­vi­ously Mi­tie has a vested in­ter­est in mak­ing its prod­ucts more at­trac­tive. The com­pany is com­pet­ing against much­vaunted, high-pro­file op­er­a­tions such as Wework, with their cre­ative client base and deep, Sil­i­con Val­ley­funded pock­ets. ‘Mea­sur­ing well­be­ing helps clients recog­nise its value,’ says Kang. ‘They will look at their em­ploy­ees’ stress lev­els and staff turnover and re­alise what that costs.’ De­sign can change per­cep­tions, and with them the am­bi­ence of the fu­ture work­place.

‘Mea­sur­ing well­be­ing helps clients look at stress lev­els and re­alise what that costs’

Above, De­signed fol­low­ing A ‘bio­philic’ Ap­proach (Mim­ick­ing na­ture), Mi­tie’s liv­ing lab AT its lon­don hq in­cludes A bam­boo AND brass co­coon, bam­boo Desks, AND light­ing based on The cir­ca­dian cy­cle. Work­ers’ Well­be­ing is Mon­i­tored AND com­pared With THAT of staff in A More con­ven­tional space Within The Main of­fice

left, a pair of re­gen­er­a­tion pods with a new age-style sound­track of­fer a quiet space for r&rbelow, the liv­ing lab is fur­nished with bam­boo desks in­cor­po­rat­ing planters as well as the usual raft of plugs, sock­ets and card read­ers

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