The 6 Dimensions of Office Wellbeing: #1 Optimism

business man choosing bright or dark path - optimism or pessimism

Last week we discussed how office wellbeing affects productivity. This week, we will share the first of 6 Dimensions of Wellbeing. These are 6 dimensions Steelcase identified that can be impacted by the design of the physical environment. So, the design of your space - the furniture, walls, flooring and architecture - can improve your office wellbeing and ultimately improve performance. But what does that look like and how do you do it? This article from Steelcase will explain the first Dimension of Wellbeing: Optimism. We'll also give you tips and considerations to help improve optimism through design.



Optimism is more than just expecting positive outcomes in various domains of life. It is about being on a quest for discovery, eager to try new approaches versus being overly risk adverse. It means interpreting and remembering events in a positive light, as well as creating enjoyment in the present and seeing possibilities for the future.

Researchers at the University of California recently found that part of our optimism, self-esteem and sense of mastery (the ability to affect a positive change in life) is genetic. But, they also noted that genes are not destiny and that activities, relationships and environment can have almost as much impact in the equation. Emotions can play a significant role in our tendencies toward optimism. Fear breeds pessimism.

Optimism is critical to the type of work that organizations need today: creativity and innovation. It influences a wide range of behaviors such as seeing the big picture, exploring ideas, being open to others, taking more risks and facing difficult tasks. It also makes people open to change. Understood in this way, optimism has important implications for an organization’s agility and resiliency. Because of this, optimistic employees tend be more productive employees in today’s economy.

“Optimism may be the most important job skill in the 21st century,” notes Nicholas de Benoist, who collaborated with others in Steelcase’s exploration.  “Organizations are faced with so much volatility and stress that the people who can rise above fears and anxiety are the ones who can help build a culture that is better able to thrive in our world.”

Cultivating optimism in the workplace

Empowering workplaces support continuous experimentation and show the legacy of the brand and organization in positive ways to reinforce progress and possibility. “Workers need to feel a sense of individual influence and control over their environment, versus feeling quashed by standardization and rigidity,” advises de Benoist.

Design Considerations:

  1. Allow choice and control over where and how people work.
  2. Create spaces that allow personalization and individual customization, instead of tightly enforced workplace standards.
  3. Offer settings and affordances that help employees feel supported in their work.
  4. Design for transparency, so people can see and be seen, and build trust.

Office Wellbeing Quiz



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