These days, companies are touting their open office design or hip game room when trying to attract and retain employees. That’s because staff satisfaction is a key component of any successful organization.
In the case of communities for older adults, plenty of ways exist to incorporate thoughtful design solutions and special amenities to help make residents feel seen and valued. The same thinking can be applied to care staff members. After all, staff retention is proven to help with cost savings and also improve resident occupancy. What’s more, it’s a meaningful way to help staff members feel integrated and appreciated within the residential community.
Here are tips for designing senior living spaces that keep staff members in mind.
Be intentional with staff break spaces
Staff spaces should not be an afterthought or placed in the leftover space of a building. Intentional staff spaces for respite should be concealed from the residents, offering privacy during relaxation. Offering dedicated break rooms or relaxation spaces for staff creates spaces designed just for them. This can be a traditional staff breakroom, an outdoor deck with an eating area, or a staff-only lounge.
An ideal break space will have views to the outside, preferably something in nature such as green vegetation, a water feature or a distant skyline view. This can be a place to take a break, have a snack or check phone messages during break times.
Some buildings might even offer a dedicated staff phone room, where one could take a personal or confidential call, since cell phones usually are not allowed for housekeeping or nursing staff on duty.
Designing dedicated staff areas can be as simple as using refreshing paint colors and unique floor patterns designating staff-only spaces. Another cost-effective signage option in back-of-house spaces is to use vinyl graphics, which can help accentuate signage or themes without using paint.
Updating the lights from industrial fixtures to softer, more subtle lighting set to warmer temperatures can improve the feel of a space.
Create opportunities to connect with the outdoors
Connecting with nature can calm the senses and revitalize the mind. The opportunity to get outside or even just take in a view of the outdoors can have a big effect.
Ideally, dedicated staff spaces should have views outside or to natural daylight. That means that offices will have windows to the outside rather than being buried within the building. Kitchens and other back-of-house spaces might have skylights or clerestory windows to filter in natural light.
A private outdoor patio space where staff members can eat and enjoy lunch together offers fresh air as well as the chance for camaraderie and connection. Access to a walking path, park or garden is even better. Some organizations also offer a staff shower or locker room to encourage activity such as biking to work or working out during a lunch break.
Another opportunity lies within resident rooms themselves. Although windows have a positive effect on the residents themselves, they are especially beneficial when the window is within a direct sight-line from the door to the room. The intent here is that staff members on duty can enter the room and immediately have a view outside, which can contribute to creating a positive sense of well-being while on the job.
Designing programming opportunities for staff
Another way to show appreciation for staff members is to encourage intentional programming and experiences at work. For example, ask the resident fitness director to create special staff workout classes in the gym, which gives staff members a chance to experience resident amenities in a fun, personal way. Residents and staff members might even be able to share the space for an occasional joint activity, such as restorative yoga or tai chi.
Another opportunity is to ask the chef to prepare a staff appreciation breakfast or lunch that then is served in the resident dining room. Residents even may want to get involved and help serve the staff to show their appreciation, depending on interest and ability. To create stronger inter-community connection, a catered event for both staff and residents can offer a chance for everyone to relax and connect.
Intentionally designed staff spaces help senior living and care employees feel more valued and appreciated at work. When there are opportunities for staff and residents to connect and feel integrated, the benefits only grow.