Wellbeing – The Importance of Office Design

The importance of an employee’s health and happiness in the office has never been more apparent, and office design is changing to reflect this focus on wellbeing. Research shows that people with higher levels of wellbeing are more resistant to colds and have a quicker recovery time from illness, have a greater life expectancy, feel less pain, are more creative and are better at problem solving.

Greater employee wellbeing can also lead to higher productivity; a study by the University of Warwick  called Happiness and Productivity found that happier individuals have approximately 12% greater productivity in the workplace. As the Department of Health states: ‘Enhancing working conditions has also been demonstrated to provide wellbeing benefits’. A happy, healthy and engaging workplace can be achieved by considering many elements of your office design.


With the move towards open-plan offices, acoustics play an important role in creating an effective, productive working environment. It is important to consider noise levels within your office design. According to Julian Treasure, author of Sound Business and chairman of The Sound Agency: “Sound in a space affects us profoundly. It changes our heart rate, breathing, hormone secretion, brain waves, affects our emotions and our cognition”.

Silence can also be as disruptive to productivity and wellbeing as other people’s conversations; the key to good acoustic design is to have the right level of ambient noise. This can be achieved, for example, by the addition of desk or freestanding screens to reduce noise travel, having dedicated areas for phone calls, meetings, or collaborative work and introducing acoustic panels, acoustic ceiling tiles, or carpeted floors.

Acoustic Environment in the office
Natural Elements in the workspace

Lighting / Natural Elements

Introducing windows or relocating the office is often unrealistic, but simple improvements may help, such as introducing a living wall or plants, using natural feel finishes on walls or carpets, and selecting different types of lighting. Design Insider recently published an international study which found that “employee wellbeing was 15% higher in office spaces where natural elements such as greenery and sunlight were incorporated”.

Different levels of light are required for different types of work. Lighting needed for close-up, detailed work is very different to the lighting required for a meeting or collaborative work. The correct light for the task is important for employee comfort – incorrect light can lead to eyestrain, headaches and problems associated with bad posture. The addition of a task light to individual desks gives the employee the option of customising their own lighting levels per task, ultimately enhancing their wellbeing.

Layout and Products

Careful product selection can greatly increase the wellbeing of staff, from the choice of an ergonomic task chair to sit-stand desks. The Telegraph recently reported that “research on more than one million adults found that sitting for at least eight hours a day could increase the risk of premature death by up to 60 per cent. Scientists said sedentary lifestyles were now posing as great a threat to public health as smoking, and were causing more deaths than obesity”.

Sit-stand desks are one way to reduce the amount of hours spent sitting, and the layout of the office can also be used to encourage movement. HSE Human factors guidelines state: “Work spaces that are perceived by employees to be cramped have a negative effect on job satisfaction and efficiency and on long-term sickness absence”. It is important for each employee to have sufficient space to effectively carry out their jobs, and a carefully planned layout can achieve this.

Layout and Product Choices affect staff
Use of Colour in Offices


Research has also shown that the colour choices in your office not only affect your mood but also severely impacts on productivity. One study found that grey, beige and white offices can leave employees feeling sad and depressed, therefore colour is an important element to consider when designing your office environment.

Green and Blue hues are a good choice for overall wellbeing – they are colours associated with nature and can improve efficiency and focus. Red should be used carefully, it can be an inspiring colour but it can also increase heart rate and panic, and is best used when you want to quickly draw the employee’s attention to something important/urgent.

Yellow is perceived as an optimistic, energetic and fresh colour, it can be a great colour to use in creative work environments as it promotes innovation and creativity. You can create a productive office with high levels of wellbeing by choosing the right combination of colours within your design.

All these factors should be considered in order to create a work environment that enhances employee wellbeing, and in turn has a positive effect on your business and productivity as a whole.