Interior office design is in the throes of another evolutionary transformation. The paradigm shift has been fuelled by a series of scientific studies that reveal legacy office designs do not support the health and wellbeing of employees.
It is estimated that poor productivity and the number of days lost to sick leave costs the UK economy an estimated £77.5 billion a year.
In recent years, open-plan offices have been pinpointed as the principal culprit, but there are numerous design faults in today’s offices that are often overlooked.
It’s well-founded that the structure and layout of buildings has an impact on mental and physical wellbeing. Consequently, interior office designers and architects have to consider design concepts that promote mood and positive psychological responses.
Interior design involves more than selecting engaging fabrics and installing ergonomic furniture for aesthetic purposes. Modern office designs have to create a functional and flexible space that enhances the relationship between people and their environment.
If your office design is not conducive to the health and wellbeing of your employees, your business could be producing less output and you could be making staff miserable. Maybe it’s time to consider an upgrade.
People-Centric Office Designs
In 1966, the urban planner Maurice Broady coined a new term he called architectural determinism. His hypothesis postulated the design of the environment impacts human behaviour that can be predicted.
Broady wasn’t wrong. Modern neuroscience and psychologist has proven specialised cells in the hippocampus region of the brain attune to the space we inhabit and enable us to adapt to the arrangement of the environment.
Subsequently, the design of a building’s architecture and interior design is known to have a psychological impact that can affect mood, concentration and general wellbeing.
Business owners board members recognise people are your firms greatest asset. The health and wellbeing of your employees reflect the health and wellbeing of your business.
In a nutshell, the relationship between humans and their environment influences social and cognitive behaviour. It’s therefore imperative office designs consider the relationship between how people use space and how the environment impacts your employees physically, emotionally and psychologically.
What’s more, people that live in urban areas and work in offices typically spend around 85%-90% of their time indoors. Studies show that closed environments are prone to pollutants that can impact the health of inhabitants.
First and foremost, office space should be designed with its occupants in mind and lean towards prioritising ways of life that are conducive to modern-day thinking.
Designing Your Happy Space
A growing number of today’s workforce want a healthy work-life balance. Millennials, in particular, prioritise their personal life over job security. Ultimately, employees are more loyal to companies and deliver more output when they are happy.
A 2015 study published by economists at the University of Warwick in the UK, underscored happy employees are 12% more productive.
Companies that invest in people, support development and create a happy working environment foster employee satisfaction.
According to a report published by Fellowes, 93% of workers in the tech industry confirmed they prefer to work for companies that provide a work environment designed to promote mental and physical wellbeing.
With this in mind, the conditions and space in which your employees operate should be designed to enhance wellbeing. Encourage your employees to positively interact with their surroundings and gear the design towards improving their quality of life at work.
A people-centred workspace is obviously not the be-all and end-all of ensuring employee satisfaction and wellbeing, but office design does contribute to reducing stress levels which ultimately increases productivity levels.
Let There Be Light
Scientific research confirms natural light plays a crucial role in physical health. The vitamin D we get from sunlight enhances mood and helps to prevent delimitating illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and weight gain.
Natural sunlight alleviates symptoms of depression and helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. Because daylight suppresses melatonin levels, our natural body clock function optimally and we rest better at night so benefit from a sound sleep.
Indoor lighting, on the other hand, contributes towards the decline of physical health including eyestrain, headaches and low energy levels which result in lower productivity.
A combined study published by researchers in professional disciplines including medicine, psychology and clinical chronobiology concluded natural light impacts mood, alertness and wellbeing. Subjects overall preferred the daylighting for visual acceptance and glare.
Research conducted by the Swiss Federal Institution of Technology also found that employees working in environments with natural light have higher levels of energy and produce a higher rate of output.
Today’s interior designers look to make full use of natural light sources by installing large windows, expansive screen walls and skylights. Natural light also negates the need to use artificial lighting thus making your office more energy efficient.
Industry research indicates indoor lighting should mimic daylight. Recently, manufacturers have been producing ambient lighting with warmer colour temperatures and LEDs with integrated controls.
Blue lighting is recognised to suppress melatonin levels, increase energy levels and alertness. However, prolonged use can cause eyes train, blurry vision, headache, neck and back pain.
Because computer screens and handheld devices emit blue lightwaves, Light Fidelity lighting (Li-Fi) should be used for artificial lighting. Li-Fi LED lights use infra-red and ultra-violet visible light waves and can be operated via wi-fi routers.
Indoor lighting should also be used to complement other design elements as well as serve a purpose to people using the room. The level of comfort created by lighting impacts ease of vision and is imperative in a working environment.
Stimulating Colour Schemes
Colour helps to create a well-balanced environment that has a positive effect on wellbeing and can improve staff morale, which in turn, improves health. When positioned in the appropriate space, colour schemes evoke different emotional responses.
Interior designers are well attuned to the psychology of colour and aware of the implications colour has on a person’s wellbeing and productivity levels.
An office environment requires a subtle pallet of colours and shades. The combination needs to stimulate energy and help improve productivity without over stimulating the senses.
Bright colours can cause distraction. They amplify emotions which in turn interrupt cognitive performance. Reds, oranges and yellow, for example, make people impulsive. This is why fast-food chains use bright colours in their colour schemes.
Hues, or colour shades, are more appropriate for offices. First and foremost, colour schemes should evoke a sense of calm and relaxation, but also foster creativity and positive energy.
Pallets of greens, blues and purples are ideal for office environments. Greens are associated with the natural environment and stimulate creation, blues are relaxing and associated with health and tranquillity whilst purples reduce emotional and mental stress.
Brighter hues are best served in areas where you want to encourage creativity such as collaborative areas and meeting rooms. Orange is recognised as a source of creativity and evokes enthusiasm, change and energy. Reds reflect excitement, courage and leadership.
The implementation of colour does not simply focus on how you paint the walls. Incorporating natural-themed colours with the use of materials such as reclaimed wood, stones and plants all contribute to creating natural surroundings that contribute to colour psychology.
Hang Artwork That Inspires
Art has a longstanding association with power, sparking imagination and influencing thought. Ruling classes have used powerful images throughout millennia to influence subjects and promote their ambition.
It’s no secret that imagery in marketing can influence purchasing decisions and prompt internet users to click on a link. If you’re using compelling images to influence your customers, then why not hang artwork that inspires your employees.
A paper published in the Journal of Business Research showed that creative individuals with an openness to artwork feel more inspired in their daily lives and perform better at creative tasks. Appreciating artwork cultivates inspiration.
Other studies have found that art can boost creativity and help reduce stress levels. The two work hand-in-hand. Contemplative aspects of art relieve feelings of pressure in high-stress settings.
Artwork that portrays a diverse range of provocative images that critically represents present-day life and culture is a strong communicator that arouses dialogue and innovative thinking.
Hanging mantras and quotes can also work to stimulate thought and motivate staff. Combined with the right colour scheme in the right setting, artwork can have positive affects on cognitive performance.
Because wellbeing is about feeling good and functioning to the best of our ability, it makes sense to promote physical exercise. Promoting movement can can be achieved in a variety of ways in your office design.
A growing theme of interior design in the corporate world is the agile office. Flexible workspace encourages your employees to move around the office and make the most of cloud connectivity and mobile devices.
Sitting in one position for long periods is proven to damage the musculoskeletal structure and increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Being physically active, on the other hand, is shown to reduce symptoms of physical and mental health. Design strategists, therefore, consider how office space can be utilised more efficiently whilst encouraging employees to flex their limbs throughout the day.
Today’s office designs should encourage your employees to take a proactive role in their health and wellbeing. You can encourage them to interact with their work environment by installing adjustable workstations (AWS) or sit-stand desks can give them the option to changed position.
Some Fortune 500 companies are taking physical movement to the next level by installing games rooms with pool tables, fuss ball tables and even five-a-side football pitches.
Whilst such frivolous activities are not plausible for most businesses, providing a variety of workspace options such as private nooks, community hubs and stairs-only access encourage movement and exert physical energy.
According to a paper published by the Centre for Active Design in the US, open and accessible stairways persuade people to use them rather than taking the elevator.
Businesses can also encourage employees to stay healthy by promoting physical exercise. People will cycle to work if there are more amenities such as bicycle storage and a shower, for example.
If you don’t have enough space in the office to build your own gym, sports centre or games room, why not offer membership discounts with your local gym.
Creating spaces with wellness in mind can benefit both companies and their employees. It can reduce sick days, motivate staff, increase their productivity, increase employee satisfaction and retain top talent. How can your office design benefit your company?