Many companies are starting to build a meditation practice into their culture—from starting out the day with a group meditation session to encouraging individual practices. Yet few companies have actually designed their workspaces around it. Enter Headspace, the makers of the popular meditation app of the same name. Its new 18,000-square-foot office in Santa Monica, California, is designed with meditation in mind.
To design the interiors, Headspace tapped Kelly Robinson, a veteran of startup office design who has also done work for SoundCloud and Airbnb. Before landing a job at Airbnb in 2010, Robinson worked on board a yacht in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Her sunny California aesthetic and focus on natural elements and sustainability have endeared her to the Silicon Valley crowd—including Headspace cofounder Rich Pierson. Robinson even took Pierson on a tour through SoundCloud's slick Berlin offices while in the researching phase. "[It] allowed me to get deeper inside his head from a design perspective," she says.
The space is designed to encourage healthy habits in Headspace employees. For one, "the layout of the office naturally encourages people to move around a lot on a daily basis," says Robinson. Open desks and meeting rooms are located farthest from the kitchen and lounge area, while alternative workspace areas encourage employees to move to a new spot when feeling restless. Then there are the requisite eccentric startup elements, in this case colorful swings and gymnastics rings hanging in various places around the office. But the biggest design challenge was to create a space that could alternatively be used as a place of work and of meditation.
Meditating in public can be awkward, to say nothing of meditating in the place where you work (even if you work for a place whose mission is normalizing meditation). There's also the fact that people meditate differently: Some prefer a private practice while others prefer a guided group meditation. To make the experience of workplace meditation as natural and as comfortable as possible, Robinson says, the office offers several different environments. Public meditation can take place in "The Lookout," a shared meeting place at the center of the office, for example, or "The Boardroom," a large meeting room alternatively used for group meditation. There's also a windowless, ominously titled "Silent Room" for solo meditation, as well as several of the company's own Meditation Pods, designed by architects Oyler Wu Collaborative, which allow for private practice in public space (in this case, right in the middle of 100 workstations).
Workplace well-being is all the rage nowadays. Many companies are building nutrition and fitness plans into their company benefits; places like Google and The Huffington Post are even encouraging quick refresher naps during the workday. As studies continue to extol the mental and physical benefits of meditating, the practice is bound to infiltrate more companies' culture (especially in hippie-happy Silicon Valley). And while Headspace's offices might provide an extreme example, offices can certainly incorporate aspects of its design into their own.
All Photos: via Headspace