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Gensler Speak Easy: What Is Balance, Really?

Photo by Grégoire Hervé-Bazin

Across industrialised societies, people are seeking the perfect life balance, but without really understanding what it truly is. Is it a state of mind? A routine? Or a set of lists? And what tools should we start to include in our daily routine to ensure that we’re keeping on track? These were some of the topics we discussed at one of Gensler London’s recent Speak Easy events.

The conversation kicked off with a discussion about what ‘balance’ meant to the panel. The panelists included Valeria Segovia Triqueros, Namrata Krishna and Lucy Day from Gensler, and Lisa Kavanaugh from Roots + Froots, an online centre for natural health and wellness. Each panelist gave their unique perspectives on finding balance across different areas of our lives.

To begin our journey through this topic, Valeria used the analogy of a spinning wheel:

Look at balance like a wheel. When life is busy, or all your energy is focused on one aspect of life, it can be all too easy to find yourself off balance. Similar to a wheel, your life can be go off kilter if it’s not running freely, worn down on one side. An overemphasis on one area can produce this effect.

Image © Gensler

Namrata rightly mentioned that finding and maintaining balance is a constant influx process. Be more open to your vulnerabilities. The panel agreed that the one of the most important steps one can take towards finding balance in our lives is accepting that we won’t always fix it; understanding that there is more power in recognising when things are not right.

As current or former professional athletes, Valeria’s and Lucy’s ideas of balance may differ slightly from that of the norm, but ultimately, their goals are driven by the same reasoning as the rest of the panel— choice. Own your life choices. The choices we make along the way, whether conscious or not, have a profound influence on our lives. Lisa also highlighted that consuming healthy food choices that contain microbiome-supporting nutrients may yield a new class of psychobiotics for the treatment of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. Hoteliers have started to take this more seriously with groups like Hyatt and Four Seasons offering healthier food choices.

Why wait until we get home?

Our second big question was about when we feel we can do the activities that help us unwind. We often assume that this process can only start when we get home, but what if the journey to/from work can set your day on the right track? Small changes, like introducing a walk into the journey, or varying your route, can be beneficial. Many of us in London often have longer commutes than the rest of the country, but less of us drive. More and more apps are coming to market that offer escapes during our commutes from the daily grind.

For some of you, this may mean breaking up your journey by integrating a trip to the gym. Lucy reiterated the usefulness of routine in these situations; by starting small and building up a routine that integrates healthier eating and exercise can slowly help you build up. Often, when we are tired and stressed we will choose things which seem easier to us. If you have a routine that integrates (however small) healthier choices, you are on the right road.

Photo © Integrative Nutrition, Inc.

Going beyond ‘the gym’

How is this idea of finding balance relevant to hospitality design? We need to go beyond ‘the gym’ and focus on providing more choice, which supports guests in their need to refocus, reflect, recharge and re-energise. We are part of a new culture that is always plugged in and constantly on the move, but sometimes we need to disconnect. As per my previous blog post, hoteliers are starting to implement changes to their offerings, appealing to a broader range of guests. Resorts are starting to offer ‘digital detox’ holidays. Perhaps this movement could be implemented in our cities, where we search for more than a spa experience to escape the pressures of our daily lives? In the same way, how nature is incorporated in design and the biophilia effect are becoming common topics in the design narrative.

Finding balance in your life is like standing on a paddle board at the shore line— you are constantly readjusting. The key is acknowledging how this differs for us all. We will find tools and ways of doing things across our life that can positively impact our balance, whether that’s on our commute, at our work or the places we choose to stay in.

Nicola’s passion and creative flare derives from her deep rooted international background, continued travel experiences and at the core, her love of different cultures. It is through this exploration that she is able to sensitively design and create memorable customer experiences. Nicola has successfully managed projects of varying sizes and complexity where touching on all aspects of design continues to inspire and influence. She can be reached via email at nicola_law@gensler.com

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