Coalesse Releases “Relate: The Culture of Comfort and Wellbeing”

Coalesse believes, now more than ever, that the four dimensions of comfort are safety’s essential companions in wellbeing at the workplace. With this in mind they launch a new edition of their Point of View series, Relate: The Culture of Comfort and Wellbeing.

In this issue, Coalesse dives into the importance of designing for surroundings that prioritize comfort in all its dimensions – physical, social, emotional and cognitive – because it’s easy to relate to being comfortable, but sometimes it’s harder to be at ease.

Below, we recap the four dimensions of comfort and how they relate to office design and worker experience. And there is much more in the actual POV, which starts with a note about how this fits into a post-COVID workplace.

Physical Comfort – “The fit”

In the world of design and particularly the creation of furniture, physical comfort is ordinarily identified with, and more narrowly assumed to be about, fit — the ergonomics of how a form meets and extends from the body, how it supports the posture and provides balance, allowing a person to remain in a position without effort.

Furniture directly improves our work when it holds us in the right postures for various tasks. Visual and sensory aspects of furnishings also soothe our nervous systems by evoking the natural world: with dynamic shapes, elemental colors, organic textures and authentic materials. A living wall is an immediate expression of nature, bringing color, variation and clean air inside a built space. From the literal to the symbolic, all of these phenomena are expressions of physical comfort and health.

Social Comfort – “The Bond”

Humans are social animals. We organize ourselves into groups of all sizes in order to experience belonging, support, teamwork and unity. Social units from families to sports teams, companies to natural ecosystems, all enact these values in terms of working well together. Work in this sense seeks harmony, suggesting that when everyone fits and functions in a community with their own unique contributions, friction is eased, while outcomes improve. This mutually beneficial alignment is frequently described as the powerful engine of collaboration.

Pre COVID-19, workplaces responded by fostering social comfort as a primary dynamic. They include an ever-widening range of settings that invite and invest in social connection— from more personalized open plans where people see each other daily, to lounges, cafés, team rooms and casual meeting spaces. These design inclusions help us reduce stress and separation so that we can listen and laugh together, show genuine interest in each other and respond sincerely; and suddenly, the work flows just as effectively as it does freely.

Collaboration matters more than ever today as we try to solve increasingly complex problems. This is especially significant in an era when we transition fluidly from in-person meetings to the digital meeting space and back again. In both, social comfort permits the wide range of informal, familiar interactions that help us bond on the personal–professional continuum.

Emotional Comfort – “The Heart”

If social comfort is a group dynamic, emotional comfort is the refuge of the individual. And this state is a force multiplier — when we are comfortable emotionally within ourselves, we’re far more receptive and adaptable to all kinds of situations. We’re better able to settle into deep contemplation and creative work. We find the intuitive balance between the energy we need to get things done and a level of personal freedom to express ourselves while we’re doing them. Strong emotional comfort tells us that we can handle whatever comes our way. This is the foundation of the highly prized quality of resilience, the ability to stay centered in the face of ever-changing and unforeseen demands.

And because it’s so connected to the social, emotional comfort creates a positive feedback loop among people. When we feel good and safe in our social connections and physical environment, we can build trust and acceptance. When these responses infuse our behavior, we in turn can improve the outlook of the people around us.

Cognitive Comfort – “The Head”

Our cognitive comfort depends on this remarkable aptitude for thinking and reasoning that helps us function; but it also lets us create. This is the deep processing and producing that people are being asked to do today. We use our cognitive ability to relate each step to another on multiple pathways, leading to new insights and ideas, and ultimately, greater levels of mastery in the skills we need to craft better solutions. This ability to be attentive and fully grounded in the moment prepares us to synthesize ever more complex matters and make accurate decisions faster, from a state of composure. This is known as the flow state, the zone.

Many people benefit from the aid of external stimuli to fuel personal flow and focus — drawing energy from a communal space; responding to vibrant and biophilic colors, textures, or music; doing better while multi-tasking. Others need the restorative solitude of a private surrounding, from an enclave to an enveloping chair, or to have gentle silence, to dip into introspection and productivity. Both approaches are valid, and great workspaces today can provide a variety of options along this spectrum to let people choose the settings that will help them do their best work.