RUOK? Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace-Part 1

RUOK is a great initiative to address mental health in the workplace. But it does raise the question-what part does workplace design play in wellbeing and how can it be used to improve mental health? In this two-part post I’ll explore ways to create workplaces that address a really important issue where mental health has increasingly become a focus of wellness in the workplace.

Here are 3 ways:

  • Placemaking
  • Transparency
  • Community

This post explores the role of Placemaking


RUOK says that communication with people positively impacts their mental state. We all need a place to meet people and communicate. We can take lessons from some ancient societies to create great places that encourage people to meet and talk. In almost every Italian town at around sunset the central piazza and village comes alive for the passeggiata. It becomes a place to catch up with friends talk, eat, drink, to see and be seen. We are instinctively drawn to these types of spaces.

Typically, they have the following attributes:

  • They are centrally located with all roads/paths leading to them. In a way you can’t avoid a great place. They are destinations
  • They are defined spaces-they are not open ended
  • They have food and drink offerings
  • People know that they can catch up with friends without making an appointment. Accidental meetings happen here
  • They are pedestrian only zones
  • People conduct business in them

We really can incorporate these planning principles into a workplace design and create a great place to meet and talk. A central hub or heart space needs have these basic attributes to be successful. They are central to creating a community that supports its members and impacts positively on mental health.

We spend so much of our life at work it makes sense that workplace design should be one of the tools that an organisation uses to support employee’s mental health.

Update-new partnership with Presynct

I’m delighted to announce a new partnership with Lisa Copland and Presynct. Lisa is based in Brisbane and provides strategic change management, workplace insight and people centred design expertise at all stages of a project.

Lisa has worked internationally with renowned architectural and consulting firms and has led major and technology change projects with clients including Chevron and QLD Government.  Look at for more details.

Why Torino is worth visiting

Turin is a bit off the beaten track in Italy but it’s really worth a trip. Here are a couple of great experiences:

National Museum of Cinema Via Montebello Torino-website

It’s a fascinating place with lots of hands on demo’s and a terrifying lift that takes you to the roof observation place. You enter at the base of the building, go through a hole in the main exhibition floor and zoom up 80 meters on a couple of cables to the roof.

Mini Pastries-if you’re like me and love sweet pastries, Turin is the place to be. It’s famous for delicious mini pastries. And probably the best croissant I’ve had in my life was in Turin at the Farmacia del Cambio-Farmacia Del Cambio. It also has a window into the restaurant kitchen where you can watch the chefs making some pretty yummy foods.

Turin also has the usual museums and churches to visit but I think these 2 experiences are pretty unique. Its also the gateway to the Valle d’Aosta- a pretty spectacular destination in its own right.


Why 2008 Really Mattered in Workplace Design


The design of white collar workplaces was pretty conservative until the global financial crisis in 2008. Sure there were variations of open plan and office configurations, but looking back, 2008 was an inflection point. The i-phone had just been released and there were a cascade of innovations and economic forces that had a profound impact on the way people work. WiFi became ubiquitous, the world of apps exploded, the cloud appeared and at the same time we went through a major economic upheaval that put enormous pressures on the cost of doing business. Organisations were reeling from change and started to question whether the traditional workplace really suited the new reality. Even though the economy in Australia escaped the worst of the GFC, companies have continued to consolidate and  look for new efficiencies and question old ways of working.

Concepts like Activity Based Working, unassigned seating and Agile Working Environments have now become mainstream.

But what’s right for your organisation? Which workplace model suits your culture or become a catalyst for change?  How do to unleash the power of teamwork and collaboration? Do I have the right technology for a mobile flexible workforce? How much space do you really need and can I save on real estate  costs?

These are some of the questions that are being asked by organisations now. Let me help you answer them.