5 Ways Office Design can improve Health and Wellbeing

office design for wellbeing

Employee wellbeing is becoming more important and it is crucial that all new businesses are thinking about how to run a positive and happy work environment, and here we look at how to achieve this in your workspace

74% of UK employees state they aren’t happy with their current offices, which is perhaps telling, considering 45% of all UK working days are lost due to ill health caused by stress. Considering UK employees have the longest working week in the EU, averaging at 42.3 hours; it’s important that the environments they work in are safe, welcoming and collaborative, promoting health and happiness.

Choice is key for workplace wellbeing

Cubicles were replaced long ago in favour of open plan designs; introduced to encourage communication and collaboration amongst workers. However, this hasn’t always been successful – major corporations found a 70% reduction in face-to-face interactions, with employees switching to instant messaging and emails instead.

Why? If you work in an open plan office, look around. How many people have their headphones in? Taken as a sign of “do not disturb”, employees can be deterred from walking over to their colleagues. Arguably cubicles wouldn’t cause this issue, as colleagues can’t physically see each other from their desks.

The stats for open-plan offices might surprise you. In 2018, a survey of 10,000 workers uncovered that 85% of respondents couldn’t concentrate in an open plan workspace; with the average worker losing 86 minutes a day due to distraction – leading to higher stress levels.

Whilst some employees find open plan offices too noisy, others find it too noisy. Employees were likely to have shorter, more superficial conversations in open plan areas because they were self-conscious of being listened into. We would recommend a combination of the two approaches, enabling opportunities for collaboration and privacy.

Remote working

Over 4 million people work solely from home in the UK, and it’s predicted that by 2020half of the workforce will be working remotely.

The benefits for employees are obvious: no commuting times, plenty of time to exercise (great for the mind!), and the ability to dress casually. The benefit for employers? Remote workers enjoy increased productivity levels of 16%, with office distractions removed.

Whilst entire remote working isn’t always possible, having the opportunity to work from home occasionally can be a huge draw for people looking for flexible employment opportunities; and is a great way to improve morale.

Embrace Sit Stand and Standing Meetings

Increased movement is paramount and with all the discussions around sitting being the new smoking, many designers and companies are introducing sit stand desks for staff, allowing them to change from sitting to standing in a matter of seconds.

Only a couple of years ago, these sit stand desk solutions may have proved too costly for many but today, there is a vast selection of products to suit all budgets.

Standing while working for just 30 minutes a day can have a remarkable impact and can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and stress levels – our team have penned an entire article on the benefits entitled The Rise of the Sit Stand Desk, which is worth a read.

Standing meetings have also risen in prominence and while share many of the same benefits as the sit stand, are also said to be a more efficient form of collaboration. Consequently, office designers now look to include tall working benches in most if not all workplaces to facilitate these meetings.

Bring nature into the workplace

Biophilia refers to the desire that humans naturally have, to be connected with nature. Psychologists have claimed that offices devoid of pictures, souvenirs and other distractions are “the most toxic space” a human being can be put into.

Research conducted at Exeter University found that employees were 15% more productive when plants were introduced into the office. But that’s not the only benefit they bring. The University of Technology, Sydney found that offices adorned with plants saw a decrease of tension and anxiety by 37%, depression by 58%, fatigue by 38%, and hostility by 44% amongst workers.

Office design can create an environment conducive to improved wellbeing by:

  • Introducing greenery: Living Walls, once a novelty are mainstays in many offices
  • Take in the view: Ensure any views from the space are visible from key working spaces
  • Incorporate natural finishes such as wooden or reconstituted wood tables and rough finishes

Office acoustics & colours

For office wellbeing, the right level of ambient noise is required so the office is never too loud or silent.  Playing music on a low volume is ideal for banishing silence and stopping employees from feeling too self-conscious to speak. By adding in carpeted floors and freestanding screens at the edges of desks, noise travel is reduced, lessening disruption in the office.

For optimum office wellbeing, it’s imperative you create designated quiet zones that your employees can retreat to; whether it’s for calls, meetings, or just a place to relax for some peace and quiet.

Perhaps surprisingly, colour can affect your employees’ productivity and mood levels too. White, beige and grey can reportedly cause feelings of sadness and depression, and red can increase heart rates and panic.

Instead, opt for greens and blues: their association with nature helps to improve efficiency and focus. Alternatively, yellow is a good colour for the office as it’s optimistic, energetic and fresh – ideal for creativity.


To conclude, employee wellbeing should be treated as highly important in all offices. These tweaks to your office will help to ensure your staff are working in a space that promotes productivity, satisfaction and happiness; not anxiety, stress and depression.

Your staff are ultimately your most important assets, and if they are dissatisfied, they’ll leave. With recruitment costs of one skilled employee estimated at £100,000, you can’t really afford not to tweak your office space into a collaborative, relaxing environment.