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The Leaflet Article

Featured Article:

BRINGING PEOPLE BACK TO THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

Andrea Meroney Sponsel, Carrie McGovern and Jen Worley

Andrea Meroney Sponsel RID, IIDA, EDAC, LSSBB, LEED AP; Director, Lean Strategy & Change Management; asponsel@bsalifestructures.com

Carrie McGovern RID, NCIDQ; Director, Interior Design Services, Indianapolis; cmcgovern@bsalifestructures.com

Jen Worley RID, LEED AP ID+C, EDAC; Director, Design Research; jworley@bsalifestructures.com

 

How can space support people's safety? As millions of people around the world begin reentering spaces outside the safe confines of their homes, we have to think critically about necessary and desired behavior and interactions.  What will bring them back to the built environment? How can the environment create an experience worth the risk of uncertainty?

Actual or perceived control is essential for an individual's wellbeing. Without it, negative consequences at emotional, cognitive, and motivational levels can occur. (Yarritu et. al.) It has been suggested that control is not only desirable but likely a psychological and biological necessity. "If people did not believe they were capable of successfully producing desired results, there would be very little incentive to face even the slightest challenge. Thus, perception of control is likely adaptive for survival." (Leotti et. al.)  Outlined as one of Maslow's basic needs, safety and security are just above air, food, water, and shelter. A science-based approach is necessary to establish appropriate policies, but a people-based approach for choice and control is paramount in implementation. 

Research on the psychological and physical effects of COVID-19 is happening around the clock and the world.  New information is being published daily to keep us informed.  Most, including a study conducted by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, cite that, "Under current critical care capacities...the overall duration of the [COVID-19] epidemic could last into 2022, requiring social distancing measures to be in place between 25% and 75% of that time."  As designers, this means our response needs to be thoughtful and not a knee-jerk reaction. BSA's rich history in healthcare designprovides us with a diverse background of expertise that can inform future designs of our Workplace and Learning markets.  Temporary tape on the floor and rapidly installed plexiglass screens are important, but they are not a permanent solution.  History tells us that fear-based behavior such as this is not sustainable,. Still, certain habits can remain if we can create awareness for the benefits and desire within people to participate.  What are potential solutions that will fulfill our need for perceived safety and control and create permanent behavior changes for our physical safety?  The solutions should be rooted in choice.

 

Getting Back to the Workplace

Work is more than what we do day in and day out; it is part of our identity. (Fryers) Similar to how work is part of an individual's identity, the workplace is a physical manifestation of a company's brand, mission & vision, and culture. 

To fulfill a person's need for safety and control, the evolution of the workplace will need to provide choice over how, where, and when we work.  The built workplace environment has a responsibility to protect the physical and mental health of its inhabitants.  According to Smith, A. in the article "How important is the physical workplace to engagement and productivity?" the "presence of job resources leads to engagement, while the absence evokes a cynical attitude." As designers, we have the opportunity to provide spaces rich in resources to create meaningful experiences that can't be achieved virtually.  A space paired with desired behavior should allow staff to flourish, resulting in a higher rate of engagement (i.e., less time physically and mentally absent from work), unyielding alignment to company goals, more significant innovation, and a stronger bottom line.

How do we bring public health practices into the workplace to contribute to feelings of safety and control?  What can be done now and, in the future, to promote the health and wellbeing of a company's biggest asset, the people?

WORKPLACE CONSIDERATIONS

TODAY                                               FORECASTING                                 FUTURECASTING

 

Getting Back to Campus

Before COVID-19 disrupted college campuses in the spring of 2020, one in five college students were already experiencing one or more diagnosable mental disorders worldwide. To make matters worse, the effects of this pandemic have led to a variety of psychological consequences for humans globally, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, difficulty sleeping, and stress eating.  (Zhai and Du)  This has the potential to greatly exacerbate the mental health issues that are already affecting college campuses, so how can we help mitigate these problems?  One way could be to give students choices in how, where, and when they learn.  This supports the safety and control needed to prepare a student, both physically and mentally, to learn. 

The HyFlex course model was initially developed to provide choice and balance for busy students.   The model provides the opportunity for learning institutions to offer both online and classroom-based courses and programs without requiring separate classes in each mode.  Today it's gaining traction for its flexibility in allowing students to decide, week by week, which mode they'd prefer to help achieve social-distancing goals and accommodate students who can't be on campus for health or logistical reasons. (McMurtrie)  This is one great example of how choice can offer the perception of safety. What else can be done now and, in the future, to promote the health and wellbeing of the faculty and students to give them the best opportunity for barrier-free learning? How do we bring lessons learned from first returning the workplace to the learning environment? 

LEARNING CONSIDERATIONS

TODAY                                           FORECASTING                                FUTURECASTING

Creating Change

To build long-term desired behaviors within the workplace and learning environments, they should be developed by a team of change leaders.  If it feels like a mandate, it's likely to wane as the immediate impact of the pandemic fades.  What we know about the steps to create organizational change (Prosci's ADKAR model) successfully should be applied to creating changes in behavior policies and procedures.

  1. Build Awareness.  Tell people the why for these changes.  Include information from health experts like the CDC and WHO, but make the message feel personal.  It should incorporate the reasons that are specific to your organization's culture.
  2. Create Desire. Go a little deeper with messages from organization leaders.  Demonstrate a direct connection to their ability to choose and their personal safety.
  3. Spread Knowledge. Create a plan to educate externally and internally.  Communicate the vision - what will be different and what will stay the same.
  4. Develop Ability. Remove any obstacles mentally or physically that could prevent your people from implementing the changes.
  5. Reinforce the Right Behavior. Celebrate what is going well and continuously improve what isn't working.

When a person feels like their concerns have been heard and addressed and that they have been part of developing the solution, their inherent need for control has been fulfilled.  They are part of the change, they are invested in the improvements, they feel safe, and they'll be back.

Bibliography:

Fryers, Tom. "Work, Identity and Health" Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health, 31 May 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1501011/

Kissler, Stephen M., et. al. "Projecting the transmission dynamics of CARS-CoV-2 through the postpandemic period" Science Magazine, 14 April 2020, https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/05/11/science.abb5793

Leotti, Lauren A., Sheena S Iyengar, and Kevin N. Ochsner. "Born to Choose: The Origins and Value of the Need for Control" NBCI, 14 October 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2944661/

McMurtrie, Beth. "Are Colleges Ready for a Different Kind of Teaching This Fall?" The Chronicle of Higher Education, 15 May 2020, www.chronicle.com/article/Are-Colleges-Ready-for-a/248710

Smith, Andrew. "How important is the physical workplace to engagement and productivity?" Journal of Facilities Management, 3 May 2011, www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/jfm.2011.30809baa.001/full/html

Yarritu, Ion, Helena Matute, and Miguel A. Vadillo. "Illusion of Control, The Role of Personal Involvement" NBCI, 16 August 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4013923/

Zhai, Yusen and Xue Du. "Addressing Collegiate Mental Health Amid COVID-19 Pandemic" NBCI, 17 April 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7162776/

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