The pandemic has had a lasting impact on how we work, the spaces in which we work, and the resources that we need to do our best work. Similarly, the way in which healthcare spaces are designed has shifted to reflect a more hospitality-focused, warm, comfortable, and secure environment that reflects the current needs of patients.  

The number of people seeking treatment for conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder has steadily risen over the past decade, and the pandemic has significantly exacerbated this trend.  

Now more than ever, “it’s essential that behavioral health spaces are insightfully and purposefully designed to be both safe and welcoming,” says Seth Starner, Steelcase Health Advanced Explorations leader. Starner believes “healthcare furniture doesn’t need to look unapproachable and uncomfortable. The goal is to create spaces that will help patients relax and be open to receiving treatment.” 

To help organizations and designers create safe and welcoming behavioral health spaces, Steelcase Health synthesized their research into seven design principles that together form a multilayered strategy. 

  1. Design for physical safety 
  2. Balance needs for privacy, social interaction, and safety 
  3. Design a welcoming environment that supports psychological safety 
  4. Offer choice and control where possible 
  5. Support positive distractions 
  6. Remember: One size does not fit all 
  7. Support therapeutic interactions  

The space around us can have a profound impact on health outcomes — influencing the overall well-being of everyone involved in the complex work of care. It is within these settings that people go through a wide range of experiences and emotions. Today it is important to make space for health by creating welcoming, inclusive, and comforting environments for patients and families. 

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