Alexandrine Vo is a poet and educator living and working in New York City. A Gates Scholar, she holds an MFA from Boston University where she was a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow and a George Starbuck Fellow. Her works have been published in the U.S., England, Ireland, and France.More From The Author >>
Changing the Corporate Office Environment: A CEO’s Health-Centered Dreamwork
Traditional methods of optimizing excellence would have these bosses heckling orders down the corporate food chain, where a worker’s worth is the value of his or her paycheck.
From Batman to Madmen, pop depictions of corporate America are ones of villainy and vice, where the endless scuffle toward greener pastures is fettered by secrecy and pain. These fictional portrayals are a stone’s throw from the truth, for reality, too, is frequented by stories of corporate success met with the self-inflicted wounds of ambition. SKA Management, however, actively pursues a rather different narrative: its leaders envision ‘corporate’ and ‘happiness’ blissfully going hand-in-hand.
To accomplish this mission, SKA puts mindfulness at the heart of what they do. Here, corporate culture is enriched by forward-thinking bosses who have recreated their workspace with insightful intuition into the wellness of the individual. This deep understanding of individual desires to feel importance and belonging plays out in how these leaders remake their work-home into a hybridize hive of comfort and productivity. What is otherwise a drab square backlit by a throng of long industrial bulbs and the narrowing of eyes around blue light is transformed into a meaningful wellspring of care.
Traditional methods of optimizing excellence would have these bosses heckling orders down the corporate food chain, where a worker’s worth is the value of his or her paycheck. In contrast, SKA’s vision is an interplay between the individual’s potential to contribute and the company’s contributions to the growing of that potential, so that learning, focus, productivity, and collaboration are the happy, natural outcomes.
Sandeep Kumar Aggarwal, Founder and CEO of this Manhattan management firm, informs audiences at the LEED Council’s Green Building Expo that “We are creating a built environment that improves the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, and performance of our employees.” The company’s non-traditional concept of SKA-7 focuses on the seven essentials of air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.
SKA provides the purest air and water, as well as the most intense soundproofing. There is an office-wide water-purification system; filters that screen out air pollutants, allergens, and toxins; and a circadian lighting system that streams energizing light in the morning and melatonin-enhancing light in the evening.
The air is not just continually cleansed but also subtly infused with aromatherapy appropriate to the time of day. The interior lighting nourishes delicate circadian rhythms with constantly changing types of illumination and blackout shading. Then there is the posture-supportive flooring system made of rift-cut Siberian oak, set upon a layer of cork and rubber, that reduces stress, muffles sound, and nudges bodies toward perfect posture.
These provisions aside, bathrooms and kitchen are protected by shield coating that destroys bacteria. The kitchen itself is an environmentalist’s dream, with planters soaking rays on the windowsill, an herb garden for juicing, and other healthy beverage selections available for all.
There is ample green technology here; even the insulation is soy-based. And if an employee wants to freshen up after a conference meeting, there will be a heated stone path to the shower providing instant foot reflexology, and inside the shower, the cascade is supplemented by a spritz of vitamin C and aloe that neutralizes chlorine and soothes the skin.
Such an array of detailed offerings seems unusual if only because corporate culture has muted our human needs. Traditionally, the workplace has designed the employee for servile production, where the mind is mired in monotonous unoriginality and the totality of being has not been fully appreciated. As advancements in technology continue to enhance and complicate, employees’ needs become ever more ready for progressive and thoughtful consideration.
Sandeep Kumar Aggarwal believes “It is important to create a place that enriches employees’ health inside and outside of work, a place where employees actually want to, rather than need to, show up.” Numerous reports such as Gensler's Workplace Index, The Leesman Index, Steelcase, and others suggest a relationship between the physical space and business performance metrics, productivity, and what employees value. These reports indicate that wellness is not simply a matter of want; it is strongly correlated with employee productivity and performance.
Employees who like their work environment will be more engaged, productive, healthier, and happier knowing they are well looked after. “When I started SKA,” Aggarwal reflects, “my dream was not to build a company, but to make a social impact. The sense that we are part of something bigger—that purpose—still drives us today, and we have so much more to do.” As a state of consciousness, happiness is malleable. As such, finding ways to influence it via lifestyle changes at work will be key in effortlessly achieving the excellence every CEO dreams of.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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