Five ways office design can impact employee productivity and wellbeing

Did you know that painting the walls pastel green or blue can reduce stress in your employees? What about if you choose warm colours such as oranges or reds? Well, people feel energised and engaged.

There is a direct connection between the design of your office and the productivity and wellbeing of your team. It is advisable that you might want to take on board to improve your central workspace or pass it on to those working from home. In a time of hybrid working, it is not just the boss that needs to design the office.

While there are issues of aesthetics, the WELL building standard explores in depth how choices you make in the workplace can directly impact the health of your team. Here we look at five of these standards and how they might influence your décor.

1) Allow the right amount of natural light in

The connection between getting adequate exposure to natural light and mental wellbeing have been well explored. Many studies reveal that bright blue light bulbs and light through windows can prevent problems with mental health, alleviating depression. We don’t really need studies to know we feel better when we see the sunshine but acting on this becomes more important when considering the hours of productivity lost to low mood.

There are also physical considerations. Too much artificial light alongside the use of devices can cause headaches and eye strain. 

However, it is also important to prevent glare in the office for the same reason. Consequently, the purchase of blinds and shades is equally important.

2) Keep rooms well ventilated

If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, the air we breathe is essential to our continued good health. While we didn’t need COVID to teach us that breathing is vital, we did need the wake-up call about the quality of this air. Stale and often recycled air is a cause for the spread of viruses such as the common cold.

Dusty rooms that are high in allergens lead to people feeling uncomfortable and ill-prepared to be productive. Add on to this high humidity, and you have people who are ill, sneezing, and lethargic.

There are HVAC systems that companies can install that provide new air every two minutes. These systems also filter the air, removing the allergens. Alternatively, if you are a small company or working from home, you can ventilate by opening windows and using plants. Some house plants filter the air, removing allergens and dust, with spider plants particularly effective here.

3) Choosing the right chairs and desks for comfort

Getting the right chair and desk is going to be essential. More than 12 million hours are lost a year due to back pain, according to Unison. Therefore, investing in ergonomic furniture is going to be a cost-saver in the end. It is also a good idea to buy adjustable desks. Working in the standing position for some of the day and sitting at others helps protect your muscular-skeletal system.

Yet, comfort is more than this. We need some soft furnishings and areas to congregate to relieve stress. Sterile environments can feel hostile, so offering some home comforts can help.

4) Encourage people to keep moving

Movement does more than keep us fit. By exercising, we stimulate blood flow to the brain, and we increase our energy levels. We become more concentrated and are more likely to solve tricky problems. While a gym in the workplace is a perfect way to monopolise on this, you can also encourage walking around by hot desking and getting people to use the stairs more.

5) Encourage human connection

The Black Dog Institute claims that one in six of us will be impacted by mental ill-health. It is challenging when an employer loses a sixth of the workforce to stress, anxiety, depression, and more. It is not just that productivity drops due to absences, but people are more likely to leave their job, creating a high churn rate.

Encouraging human connection is one way to help people maintain their mental wellbeing. Having areas for informal chats and time away from the desk is essential.

Getting the people working from home chatting for a while in video conferencing meetings will also make a difference. While getting the right light and bringing nature into the workplace helps, we feel most mentally secure when we feel like we can connect – and the right seating area will do the trick.

Laura McLoughlin is a Digital PR based in Armagh, Northern Ireland. She has previous experience as a website editor and journalist, and currently works with Paint Spray Tools.

Photo by m085