Water features such as decorative fountains and displays can provide a number of benefits to the workplace environment. Most managers agree that providing components within the office that afford visual interest can reduce stress, which may lead to enhanced productivity.
However, adding a water feature is not without risk.
A water feature provides visual stimulation and soothing sounds. A properly designed and lit fountain can look very attractive. The continual movement of the water provides eye-catching interest to the display that can hold the viewers’ attention. These actions can distract the viewer and take the mind off the stressful parts of the workplace environment.
Most fountains featuring moving water also produce running-water sounds. These sounds can remind listeners of a calm babbling brook contributing to the calming effect of the fountain. The fountain noises also cover the sounds of the office environment. This effect is known as white noise and can help reduce the stress caused by the more mundane sounds of office machines, phones ringing, and conversations.
Of course, not all workers may feel this way. Consider seating arrangements that keep employees who like these sounds closer to the water feature than those who don’t.
Fountains can become a gathering place for employees — especially if placed in a break room — or for visitors to the office if placed in a waiting or reception area. Specially designed water features incorporating the logo or corporate identity can serve as marketing tools for customers or promote employee loyalty. Designers often include seating or viewing space around the fountain area to accommodate the attention the devices attract.
Some people still throw coins into fountains with wishes for luck. Dedicating the coins removed from the fountain to a charitable cause can also provide employees and visitors with a sense they are supporting a good cause. Most businesses find having a good moral compass within the company draws from charitable works.
The moving water of a fountain allows some of the water to evaporate into the air. This contributes to the humidity of the air and may actually improve the air quality of the workplace.
The benefit of adding moisture to the office air depends on the climate. In regions with naturally high air humidity, adding more water to the office air may raise interior humidity levels to an uncomfortable and unhealthy level. In dry climates, the presence of a water feature may reduce or eliminate the need for a humidifier.
Some fountain designs enclose most of the water movement, reducing evaporation and limiting the amount of water added to the air. Consult with heating and air conditioning professionals as well as fountain designers to determine the best water feature for the office environment.
The water in a fountain can pose a safety hazard. If the water feature includes an open pool, it should include design features that prevent accidental entrance by children. While children in a workplace are not always common, some do occasionally visit and should be protected. Large fountains may require special insurance riders or coverage depending on design and location.
Water features, depending on the amount of water contained, can be quite heavy. Check the total projected weight of the water feature and make sure it does not exceed the floor’s load carrying capacity.
Leakage also poses a safety hazard for water feature users. Water leaking from a fountain can cause damage to the area around the fountain and to levels below in multi-story buildings. This can create liability concerns for fountain owners.
Minimize liability concerns by choosing a fountain design with a sturdy and watertight base enclosure that will contain all the water included in the fountain in the event of a failure by any component.
A water feature or fountain should be something staff and visitors can appreciate and enjoy –not be a source of irritation and dissent within a workplace.