Having regular access to an outdoor space has important benefits for both health and well-being. According to a study by Springer, green spaces can promote both mental and physical health by providing a range of important benefits, including psychological relaxation, stress alleviation and increased opportunity for social cohesion. Given the long-established relationship between green spaces and general well-being, having a small garden in your workplace is a great way to look after employee health, and could even help boost employee satisfaction and productivity at the same time. Ensuring that the garden is accessible and works for everyone should always be an important design consideration when creating a workplace garden.
Pathways are an important feature of an accessible garden space. Paths will need to be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, with just over half a meter’s worth of extra space either side. All paths should also be on ground level and have a non-slip surface. Ensuring that the surface is flat and even with a good grip will make it easier for someone using any type of walking aid or a wheelchair. For low cost and low maintenance options, concrete and tarmac are a good choice. If the path passes the side of the office, you will need to take into account any outward opening windows, as well as cut back any trees or bushes that may impede access. Ensure that any level changes are fully accessible by a ramp, so that all areas can be reached by everyone.
If installing a new path in the garden is not an option and you are looking to make your workplace garden accessible on a budget, you could use roll out tracking. This can be rolled out whenever it is needed over the top of an otherwise inaccessible, uneven surface, enabling people with a walking aid or wheelchair to safely travel across the garden.
Research shows that the sound and sight of flowing water helps to ease stress and improve psychological well-being. As such, a water feature would promote a sense of calm in the garden. Garden fountains come in many styles, shapes and sizes, and they make for an attractive centerpiece to any garden. To ensure that it is accessibility friendly, make sure that the fountain is completely secure with no moving parts that could fall off and cause injury. A pathway can be installed around the fountain to facilitate wheelchair access so people can have a closer look or sit nearer to it. This must be wide enough to allow a wheelchair to navigate the whole area, and any benches should therefore be set back from the path.
Building a pond in the garden would be another option, and they are a great way to support local wildlife. However, ponds do take a lot of work to maintain, and they could also be a hazard if they are not properly safety-proofed. To make it safe, the ground on the outskirts of the pond should be completely flat, and you could also put a fence or a small stone wall around it for extra safety.
There should be room made for seating at various spots around the garden, so there is plenty of opportunity for people to sit down and have a rest when needed. Seating should be arranged in both sunny spots and shaded areas to give people variety and provide shelter from the sun during hot summer days. To make the seating accessible to employees in a wheelchair, it is possible to buy picnic tables that are wheelchair friendly: these have gaps in the seating to accommodate a wheelchair at the table. Make sure that there is still enough space to pass seating areas in a wheelchair. Planting sweet-scented flowers such as roses, lavender or honeysuckle near the seating area will help lift the mood of staff, as well as make the area more inviting.
Having a workplace garden provides employees with the opportunity to get outdoors for a bit during the working day, which will help to boost their well-being. Going into a garden for a break can help all employees destress, boost their mood and reinvigorate their minds ready for the rest of the working day, and ensuring that it is fully accessible makes it an inclusive space for the whole workforce.
This article is contributed by Jackie Edwards. Thank you for a wonderful work.