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27 September 2019

Workplace wellbeing has increasingly become a core part of business strategies across all sectors, with interior office design in the throes of another evolutionary transformation. The paradigm shift towards wellbeing office design has been fuelled by a series of scientific studies that reveal legacy office designs do not support the health and wellbeing of employees. Improving office wellbeing has been shown to enhance productivity, increase morale and even improve staff retention. It is estimated that poor productivity and the number of days lost to sick leave costs the UK economy an estimated 7.5 billion a year. In recent years, open-plan offices have been pinpointed as the principal culprit, but there are numerous design faults in today۪s offices that often do little to support office wellbeing. It۪s 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 wellbeing office design concepts that promote mood and positive psychological responses. Promoting health and wellbeing in the office through interior design involves more than selecting engaging fabrics and installing ergonomic furniture for aesthetic purposes. Wellbeing 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 in the workplace for your employees, your business could be producing less output and you could be making staff miserable. Maybe it۪s time to consider an upgrade.

What does wellbeing in the workplace mean?

Wellbeing in the workplace has long been linked to the relationship between the working environment and its implications on human behaviour. In 1966, the urban planner Maurice Broady coined a new term he called architectural determinism. His hypothesis postulated that the design of the environment impacts human behaviour that can be predicted. Broady wasn۪t 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 building۪s architecture and interior design is known to have a psychological impact that can affect mood, concentration and mental wellbeing in the workplace. Business owners and board members recognise that people are your firm۪s greatest asset. And that the health and wellbeing of your employees reflect the health and wellbeing of your business. This means that by incorporating a wellbeing office design, not only are companies improving office wellbeing, but subsequently their business success. In a nutshell, the relationship between humans and their environment influences social and cognitive behaviour. It۪s therefore imperative office designs consider wellbeing in the workplace. And the relationship between how people use space and how the environment impacts your employees physically, emotionally and psychologically. What۪s more, people that live in urban areas and work in offices typically spend around 85%-90% of their time indoors, making it especially important to uplift employees with a healthy office space. 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.

Why is workplace wellbeing important?

A growing number of today۪s 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. According to the latest research from the University of Warwick, economists undertook various experiments testing the idea that happy employees work harder. In a trial environment they found that happiness increased the productivity of a workforce by 12%. This evidence shows office interior design as one of the main factors that has a direct impact on happiness and wellbeing. Companies that invest in employee wellness, 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 healthy work environment designed to promote mental and physical wellbeing. With this in mind, the conditions and workspace 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 a healthy office design does contribute to reducing stress levels which ultimately increases productivity levels.

How do you build a healthy office space?

Happiness and wellbeing are subjective, especially in office settings where people enjoy working differently. This is the struggle many businesses face when trying to design a healthy office space to suit the individual roles and personalities within a company. The key not only lies in understanding the different types of activities and how they are carried out, but to also understand that company culture plays a part in elevating mood and health. To answer key questions when designing an office for wellbeing, workplace consultancies utilise the Myers Briggs personality type testing method to help set the foundation for an agile workplace design. The benefit of Agile Working is ensuring the workplace is built with elements that will accommodate the demands of different tasks for different workers. Creating agile working environments will provide its occupants with pickings of areas specific to the user۪s needs. For example; one area could be designed with muted colours, low ambient lighting and noise reduction furniture, whilst another could be designed loudly with bright colours and openly shared spaces.

The link between office lighting and workplace wellbeing

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 levels of anxiety, symptoms of depression and helps to regulate the body۪s 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, can have a negative impact on 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 office environments with natural light have higher levels of energy and produce a higher rate of output. Today۪s interior designers look to make full use of natural light sources when designing for office wellbeing. Natural light can be drawn by installing large windows, expansive screen walls and skylights, which is why many designers incorporate windows into wellbeing rooms at work. Using natural light sources 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.

Why is colour important in offices?

Colour helps to create a well-balanced office environment that has a positive effect on employee wellbeing and can improve staff morale, which in turn, improves health. When positioned in the appropriate space, colour schemes evoke different emotional responses and promote wellbeing in the workplace. Interior designers are well attuned to the psychology of colour and aware of the implications colour has on a person۪s wellbeing and productivity levels.

How does colour affect office productivity?

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. Subsequently, hues can help promote health and wellbeing when incorporated into the office design. 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 Office Wellbeing

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. It۪s no secret that imagery in marketing can influence purchasing decisions and prompt internet users to click on a link. If you۪re 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. In turn, artwork can help improve health and wellbeing in the office by creating points of discussion and encouraging active imagination. Hanging mantras and quotes as part of your wellbeing office design 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.

Promote Movement

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 wellbeing 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. Today۪s office designs should encourage your employees to take a proactive role in their health and wellbeing in the workplace. 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 don۪t 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 office 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?

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