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How Office Design Can Affect Your Mental Health

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

It has been understood for many years that office layouts and interior decoration can have a profound effect on the productivity, mood and overall wellbeing of employees. A simple Google search can throw up numerous articles from pre-2020 in which interior design is cited as a major contributing factor to the mental health of your employees.

“A staggering 70 million workdays are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.”

In a year where home-working has become a staple of most people’s weekly structure, and physical and mental health dominated the political and cultural zeitgeist, it’s not surprising that employee expectations have accelerated the requirement for office spaces.

In this article we will visit a number of the factors you should consider within your office design that permeates beyond aesthetics and have the potential to positively influence the mental health of your employees, and subsequently the productivity of your business.

Flexible design environments

We have all come across that particularly stressful project that has seen us staring at our computer screen for 3 hours with a sense of despair and increasing anxiety. Feeling trapped to our desks can be a major contributing factor to workplace stress, and one of the most common precursors to mental health issues associated with office working.

By adopting a flexible and agile working environment, introducing quiet zones and encouraging employees to be more physically active around the office,  we are able to minimise the risk of shoe-horning our employees into an environment in which they struggle to work in their best way.

Boost collaboration

Anyone who has been part of a successful sports team or delivered on a key team project will report back on the mental health boost that being part of a high-functioning and effective team can be.

Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals, sharing the burden of tackling major challenges and sharing a sense of purpose are powerful tools that boost emotional and mental wellbeing and can be facilitated with good office design.

Shared workspaces where team members can work cross-departmentally, dedicated meeting zones that promote teamwork and creativity, social areas where your employees can let off steam and build relationships, are all ways to ensure that no one is left feeling they are stuck with a problem on their own.

Lighten up

Have you ever considered the effect of light within your office space? Whether it’s the negative physical symptoms associated with bright artificial lighting or the mental consequences related to the lack of exposure to natural light, the method by which you ensure you provide a safe and effective lighting solution to your office will have a significant effect on the mental health of your teams.

Introducing natural light wherever possible by utilising glass partitioning and a well-designed layout, that maximises any pre-existing windows, is a great first port of call to improve any lighting issues you may encounter within your current office space. If it’s not possible to incorporate natural light into the entire office, consider a naturally lit communal area where all employees can benefit from exposure to natural light throughout their day.

If introducing natural light simply isn’t feasible; and sometimes it simply isn’t possible, there are many other clever lighting solutions that can help improve the mental health of your employees. Maximise ‘yellow lighting’ and avoid the harsh effects of artificial lighting whilst promoting a more homely and comfortable feel within an area. Multi-level lighting is an effective and stylish way to help employees feel more relaxed within their office space

Inspire happiness through biophilic design

Stress is described by the NHS as “the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure” and while a little stress is a common, and often useful, motivational driver, too much long-term stress can turn into anxiety. Anxiety is a major roadblock to productivity and can be a serious concern when it comes to employee wellbeing.

Anyone who has researched the restorative effects of nature or taken up “forest bathing” as a means of escaping the stresses of modern technology will attest to the powerful positive effect that the great outdoors can have on your mental health.

Whilst transforming your office space into an oasis of natural beauty may seem like a challenge at first, biophilic design can start as small; or large, as you feel comfortable with and you can choose the lengths to which you go to create your perfect “indoor-outdoor” feel.

Top Tip- using natural green and brown colours alongside the introduction of a number of specially chosen air-purifying plants within your office area can be an effective and efficient way to begin your biophilic design journey


Often an overlooked factor when focusing on the aesthetics of office design, the temperature can be the biggest cause of negativity and complaints in the office.

Whether it’s the debilitating heat of a high summer’s day or the semi-hibernation effect of a snow-laden January morning, temperature plays a major effect on our mood and productivity and therefore must be a major consideration when considering your next office design.

Ensuring that each of your office areas benefits from adequate heating and cooling solutions, as well as ensuring effective air circulation throughout the whole office, can be the key to ensuring the remainder of your office design works as you expect it to.

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