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9 Ways to Improve Workplace Wellbeing with Office Design

Updated: Apr 25

Wellbeing and Office Design

Over the last few years, wellbeing has become recognised as an essential part of a high-performance workforce. It's long been known that happy workers are productive workers. However, recent research has shown the staggering impact of poor wellbeing on performance. 15-20% of the average company’s payroll is wasted due to poor worker wellbeing!


Ensuring your people are physically and mentally healthy is essential to the success of your business. Improved worker wellbeing leads to reduced absence and increased resilience engagement, and productivity. As a result, your workforce is far more adaptable to challenges, more aligned with your company, and performs at a far higher level.


A key part of the wellbeing of your people is your office – the place they spend most or all of their working lives. Wellbeing programmes only addressing one aspect of staff health, such as nutrition, have a limited impact. To be truly successful, wellbeing has to penetrate every part of your organisation from your compensation structures to your office design.


When working with clients to create their office design, they often ask us how to improve health and wellbeing in their workplace. In our experience, there are 9 main ways to improve the health of your people through office design. In this article, we’ll explain each one, and how you can implement them in your workplace. Let’s get started!


1) Natural Light

One of the highest-impact ways to improve the wellbeing of your people is to increase their access to natural light. A recent study found 78% of employees say access to natural light and views improves their wellbeing. 70% report improved work performance.


To improve natural light in your workspace, ensure the most used parts of your office are situated near windows. Traditional office design often places meeting rooms or executive offices around the outside. However, these spaces are used far less, so natural light is wasted. Throughout the rest of your space, installing daylight-balanced LED lighting will replicate natural light.


2) Biophilia

Biophilic design is a design concept that advocates the use of natural materials throughout the workplace. This includes everything from timber wall slats to fresh air. Staff working in biophilic offices reported a 15% increase in wellbeing, are 6% more productive, and 15% more creative.


The easiest way to add biophilic design to your workplace is through office plants and living walls. They are relaxing from a colour psychology perspective and they increase the oxygen content in the air. Other ways to add incorporate biophilic design include the use of natural material finishes, such as wooden flooring. Ensuring your office has an adequate fresh air supply is also a valuable benefit.


3) Customisability

Allowing your people to adapt their workspace based on their needs will vastly improve their wellbeing. Long gone are the days when staff sat at a desk all day, working on their own. Today’s knowledge worker has a wide variety of tasks and works with different people throughout the day. Consequently, they need a space that can support this.


One of the most effective ways to add choice to your working environment is through the use of modular furniture. Throughout the day, your staff will work in different size teams. Having a collaboration area where they can change the layout as necessary will improve their ability to work together. Customisability can even be applied to focussed workstations. Sit-stand desks will allow your people to remain active throughout the day, even if they remain at the same workstation.


4) Breakout Spaces

Being able to take a break whenever it’s needed is an essential part of workplace wellbeing. To facilitate this, a dedicated breakout space is very helpful. This can be a space where your staff can go to relax, with the ability to chat or be alone. Breakout spaces should comprise 5-15% of your office, and are separate from collaboration spaces.


The best way to increase breakout space in your office will depend on the scope of your project. If you are relocating your office completely, then you can ensure it is an integral part of your space plan. Even if you are planning an office refurbishment, you can add breakout space by removing excess desks.


5) Focus Spaces

Even if you have implemented hybrid working and your people use the office as a collaboration hub, they will still need some private spaces where they can work without distractions. A lack of privacy has been one of the most common complaints of open-plan office design. There is no doubt that allowing your people privacy is essential for their wellbeing.


There is more to focus spaces than banks of desks. When working privately, your people need to be free of any distractions. Office pods are ideal, because they provide a perfect place to work in private, and can be easily added to any workplace. Other options include using acoustics desk dividers to break up banks of desks, or bookable mini offices.


6) Encourage Activity

Traditional office design promotes a sedentary lifestyle. Over time, this can lead to musculoskeletal and metabolic illnesses. To combat this, your workplace layout can encourage your staff to remain active throughout the day. Remaining active also has mental health benefits. A recent study found that employees are 20% more satisfied with their work when away from the desk.


The main way you can encourage activity through workspace design is through the layout of your office. By ensuring you have spaces specifically designed for different activities, you will encourage your staff to move around throughout the day. Installing games such as table tennis will also help keep your people active. You could even encourage your people to be active outside of their working day, by installing bike racks and showers to make cycling to work easier.


7) Ergonomic Furniture

Ergonomic office furniture is absolutely essential for the wellbeing of your people. Without it, they could start to suffer back, neck, and shoulder pain, This will also have a knock-on effect on their mental health. Ergonomic is more than just good quality – it needs to be suitable for the body position of the user, so adjustability is key.


To improve the ergonomics in your office, the best place to start is the most heavily used furniture. This is typically task chairs and desks. Ensuring they are commercial quality and easily adjustable is crucial. If not, then they will need to be replaced. Other furniture that is heavily used, such as collaboration furniture, should also be assessed.


8) Colour

The role that colour plays in a workspace is often overlooked, but it can have a measurable impact on the performance of your people. Beyond including brand colours in your design, you should consider colour psychology. This is the impact that different colours will have on the emotions and wellbeing of your people.


The simplest way to improve the colours throughout your space is through redecoration. You can easily have part or all of your office repainted out of hours to create minimal disruption for your people. Other options include replacing or re-upholstering the furniture and changing the flooring.


9) Art

Artwork in the office is often thought of as a nice-to-have. However, research demonstrates that artwork can reduce anxiety, reduce depression, improve mood, and increase relaxation. The most effective artworks are natural scenes which are part of biophilic design. Artwork in your office can also be used to communicate your brand and help inspire your staff.


Framed artworks are the obvious place to start when adding art to your workplace, as they are easy to purchase and install. You could commission an artist to create artwork for your company. You could even commission a graffiti artist to create a large-scale mural inside your own office.


Wellbeing in Your Office

For many years, wellbeing has been viewed as the responsibility of the HR department. As research has demonstrated its importance, it has become an integral part of a successful business strategy. Mentally and physically healthy staff are crucial to a motivated, productive, and collaborative workforce.


As the place where your people spend most or all of their working lives, your office design has a crucial role in their wellbeing. Encouraging them to remain active and providing them with ergonomic furniture will help ensure their physical health. By giving them a variety of working zones such as breakout and focus spaces, you are creating an office that matches the way your people work. This will boost their job satisfaction. Through design concepts and considerations such as biophilia, natural light, colour psychology, and art, you can improve the physical and mental wellbeing of all your staff.


To learn more about how Zentura can help you create a workspace that improves the wellbeing of your people, book a call with one of our workspace experts. We design agile workspaces around the people that use them. Your staff can become healthier, more efficient, and more productive. We can design and deliver a high-performance workspace for your future.

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