From ergonomic tweaks to complete redesign approaches for chiropractic offices, employ these wellness design strategies
Nearly half of all Americans admit they are more anxious than 12 months ago, according to a recent workplace study1 report. The pandemic, rising cost of living and challenges of the changing work environment are all contributing to increased stress levels. As a wellness provider, chiropractic offices can implement several wellness design strategies to help create a sense of calm and well-being among both staff and patients.
There are three primary stakeholders in the chiropractic care experience — caregivers, the patient support network (family and friends), and of course the patient. Implementing wellness-centered design ideas ensures that each participant’s needs are supported, leading to the best possible results. The goal should be to provide spaces that offer the patient a voice, contribute to collaboration and facilitate healing.
Seeking care can be anxiety-inducing for many people — patients are often in pain and those visiting a chiropractor for the first time may be feeling trepidation about the experience. Consider integrating positive distractions, like soothing artwork in soft tones or outdoor views and plants. A number of scientific studies2 have found that wellness design strategies with connections to nature can help lower cortisol and blood pressure levels, and even alleviate depression3.
Color and sound can play a powerful role:
- Soft, natural blues and greens can evoke a calm, serene space.
- Saturated, brighter yellows and orange tones can energize, stimulate and create a sense of optimism.
- Sound is important in offering a positive distraction — that could mean white noise or soft music in common spaces.
Wellness-inspired layouts customized to patient needs
The layout of waiting and treatment areas can have an impact on creating a sense of wellness and contentment. Some visitors prefer privacy and quiet for reflection, where others might wish for socialization opportunities as a means of distraction. Offering a variety of waiting space seating can provide both.
It’s important to ensure that all visitors are accommodated in a way that preserves dignity. This might mean offering bariatric seating, hip chairs for those with mobility issues and dedicated room for those in wheelchairs. Both visitors and staff members will appreciate home-like amenities such as coffee or refreshment areas and charging ports for electronics.
When planning care spaces, like treatment and exam rooms, make sure the design easily and comfortably accommodates family support and is planned to ensure that patients can participate fully in their care. Lines of sight to things like screens are particularly important when sharing test results and discussing a treatment plan. Treatment furniture for your wellness design strategies should be chosen with safety in mind — tables and chairs with automatic adjustments can help mitigate risk and prevent staff or patient injury.
Wellness design strategies: a few tweaks can make a difference
Since this is a chiropractic office, ergonomic features are essential for both patient and staff furniture. Choose quality staff seating that offers several adjustments to ensure proper posture while working. Popular adjustment types include a seat slide function, a forward tilt feature and adjustable lumbar. If feasible, it is worth considering height-adjustable desk surfaces that allow the user to stand for portions of the day, reducing stress and increasing circulation. If adjustable-height surfaces are not possible, movable monitor risers can create a similar effect at a very affordable price point.
Unlike desk chairs, patient seating isn’t meant for sitting in for long periods, but these chairs should also be chosen with care. Look for firm, commercial-grade foam that will comfortably support the user, a waterfall seat edge to promote blood circulation and built-in lumbar support in the back cushions. Pay attention to chair armrests, which should offer a grip for patients to use to assist with exiting the chair. Chair legs should not protrude past the seat of guest chairs, as it creates a potential trip hazard, especially for those needing to use mobility-assist devices. Of course, all patient seating should be chosen in a durable, nonporous covering that can easily be wiped down and disinfected.
Staff need a place to call their own
Finally, caregivers have a demanding and difficult role — often involving long hours and heavy workloads. Staff need dedicated spaces where they can come together to discuss cases and collaborate, preferably in non-patient areas so privacy can be maintained. Caregiver input is critical in the design process — they often have invaluable suggestions for making spaces more patient-friendly and more efficient.
Too often, staff respite spaces are overlooked or an afterthought — many break rooms are cramped, uncomfortable and unappealing. It’s important to give your valued employees a place to rest and recharge during a busy shift. Provide comfortable seating, along with tables and chairs for a quick meal. We recommend that staff rooms have access to a restroom, a place to store personal belongings and a place to take a break and eat.
Making sure staff areas are appealing can help prevent burnout and fatigue — and can help prevent medical errors. If your space allows for it, offer access to daylight or the outdoors, which can help users relax. Don’t forget to include all staff — maintenance, office workers and cleaners (among others) are working hard during this stressful time.
Need help, or unsure where to start with wellness design strategies? The Center for Health Design4 has many research-based studies and tools that can be invaluable in navigating the wide variety of choices available to the design community.
JOANNA TERRY, director of Vertical Markets at National Business Furniture, is an experienced health care and design professional with more than 20 years in the contract furniture industry. Learn more at nationalbusinessfurniture.com.