With Mother's Day around the corner, I was curious what it means these days to design a "mom-friendly" office space. Studies show that creating an environment that attracts and retains women has many benefits for companies of all sizes. To find out more, I asked experts about this emerging trend from two of the country's leading design firms: lauckgroup and Echo Design & Architecture. Here is what they say you need:
1. A World-Class Mother's Room
"In today's hectic environment, it's important to create space within office settings where women can balance being both a mother and an entrepreneur," says Ajay Chopra, founder and principal at Echo Design. Our client, Alley, made a special request for a "mother's room" in their newest location in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. We started by developing a design concept that supports the basic amenities of a nursing room: a changing station, refrigerator, first aid kits, water, and basic sanitary supplies. We then wove those primary necessities into the larger idea of blurring the lines between a workplace retreat and a residential space, creating a homey feel that focused on comfort. The room was designed to create an escape for working mothers by offering a small getaway that allows women to step away from the chaos of a corporate office. By placing nursing mothers as far aas possible from the traditional office environment, we helped to increase the level of comfort required to nurse babies."
That design inspiration evolved into a beach and seascape concept, playing off the calm of water and sunshine, and the tranquility of the waves gently rolling in to shore. The color palette was grounded in neutral tones such as light taupe and soft blues to create a feeling of warmth and serenity. "We added a rustic rocking chair with soft pillows as well as carpeting the space, to enhance the sense of calm. A pretty sign in a natural wood frame states 'This is my happy place.' It is coupled with photography of natural corals and flowers in bloom. The mother's room space also features serene soundscapes and lightly-scented decorative sticks, to helps capture the aura of the beach." Chopra explains.
2. Sizing For Women
Sara Barnes, an Associate at lauckgroup, talked about the importance of sizing equipment and spaces for women. Inappropriately sized chairs, desks and other furnishings are subtly stressful. "Design-specific strategies include providing proper ergonomics in work areas. This includes allowing for more adjustability to accommodate all body types. Additional design factors that make for better support for women includes providing sound-isolating rooms for personal calls to nannies and daycare professionals, quiet rooms equipped with a sink, small refrigerator, and lounge chair for nursing mothers, and close attention to safety concerns regarding getting from the office to parking areas or public transportation.
3. Make way for kids
Making children feel welcome in the workplace can also make a huge difference to working mothers. It can also impact their relationship to their employer. "At WiNGS, a nonprofit dedicated to helping impoverished Dallas women, lauckgroup led a pro bono redesign to transform the WiNGS office into a bright, colorful and welcoming space. Since our work was geared toward helping mothers seeking assistance, we created an area specifically for children to play in safely, allowing their mothers to focus on the tasks at hand," Barnes recalls.
Happily, the days when women were expected to use a breast pump in a bathroom stall appear to be past., Many companies are using their physical space to show working moms that they care. If your company hasn't considered these concepts for your workspace, Mother's Day might be a good time to share this article with the HR department, or even the CEO -- and start a conversation.