Wellbeing at work: the impact office design has on your health

Published on: 10th December 2018

For many of us, a large portion of our day is spent at work; in fact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so it’s no surprise our work environment can have a huge impact on our quality of life. 

Our architecture team have put together their thoughts on how your office and its design features might be helping or harming your health.

Temperature

Studies suggest that high temperatures in the office are less tolerated than low temperatures, with a 6% reduction in productivity in warmer temperatures and a 4% with cooler. The optimum temperature is thought to be between 21° and 23° with thermal comfort being a key factor influencing an employee’s workplace satisfaction.

Air Quality and Ventilation

The quality of air within an office can have a significant impact on your health, and in turn productivity. Research carried out by the World Green Building Council in 2003 recorded a 11% increase in productivity as a result of increased fresh air to the workstation and a reduction in pollutants.

Daylighting & Lighting

Lighting in the workplace must satisfy a variety of different needs, not only does lighting ensure we can carry out the task in front of us, it can also effect an employee’s mood, communication, and health. Poor lighting and lack of control of the visual environment can influence employee productivity, whilst visual discomfort such as poor visibility, glare and flicker can lead to headaches and eyestrain. Studies show that employees with access to a window, slept on average 46 minutes more per night, had a reduction in sick leave and had overall improved workplace satisfaction.

Noise & Acoustics

Noise levels within the office can vary substantially from office to office depending on the industry. Both external and internal noise is one of the lead causes of dissatisfaction within the workplace, and is particularly problematic within open plan offices. Noise distractions can not only impact productivity but can have a detrimental impact on your health and stress levels.
A design solution that allows employees to find the balance between background noise and distractions is providing a range of different work spaces, each with different acoustic conditions, allowing staff to be flexible and decide what setting they work depending on their preferences.

Views

Views away from the office allow the eyes to adjust and refocus, reducing fatigue, headaches and eye strain. Ideally views should be aesthetically pleasing with views of the outdoors having the additional benefit of daylighting as discussed earlier. Studies show that introducing indoor planting to an office can improve productivity, concentration as well the indoor air quality. Adding indoor plants is not the only way to encourage a biophilic workspace, interiors and artwork can be designed to mimic shapes and forms found in nature and natural soundscapes can be used with the additional benefit of masking noise.

Layout

Finally, the layout of an office can influence concentration, collaboration, confidentiality and creativity. Hot desking and shared workspaces are becoming increasingly common in modern working environments with the objective to increase workspace density and provide more efficient spaces, but this shouldn’t be done at the expense of people’s wellbeing.
Several design considerations can be made to improve employee wellbeing, two key aspects being agile working and active design. Agile working gives the employee flexibility, providing a variety of different work settings and giving employees control over where, how, and when they work and active design encourages movement both inside and outside the office.

For further information visit sw.co.uk/architecture.

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