Using office design to support good mental health in employees

By 16th September 2021Responsibility
three people working at a desk laughing

Do you know how your office design impacts the mental health of your employees?

Good mental health in employees is critical to the day to day and continued success of any business. Initiatives like Mental Health First Aiders and Employee Assistance Programmes have become more popular over the last few years but few employers consider how the design of their office can form a solid foundation for good mental health in their employees.

With employees retuning to offices post-pandemic, they’re once again going to spending the majority of their day in these workspaces so they need to be designed with some core considerations in mind.

We all want a positive, productive and healthy workforce, so what should we consider when designing offices?

Support flexible working

Even before the pandemic, employers were starting to recognise the benefits of flexible working on mental health – whether that meant flexible hours or remote working, it enabled employees to balance the demands of their personal lives with their work.

Simply offering these flexible working options, though, isn’t enough.
To truly create a company culture that supports flexible working (and in turn, mental health), your office should be designed to fully accommodate flexible working needs.

This will look different for all companies but examples include using hot-desks, using the right technology set up to allow for video calls with those in the office, positioning desks away from communal areas that might get more disruptive around traditional lunchtimes or even making sure people have lights on their desks if they work when it’s slightly darker.

Everything you can do to ensure those who need and want to work flexibly feel as though the workplace has been designed with them in mind will help their mental health at work.

Create inclusive workplaces

It’s clear to employees when you haven’t considered their needs when designing your workplace – not only can this negatively affect their mental health by making them feel like they’re not valued by you, but the long term requirement to adapt their way of working can also take its toll.

When creating any workplace you need to ensure it works for all employees regardless of seniority or department. At Resolution Interiors, we hold meetings and workshops with a cross-section of employees to ensure we create offices that work for all areas of the business. Similarly, you should take into account any disabilities or health issues that may impact the way people work e.g. those with eyesight problems may prefer adjustable lighting at their desk and those with back problems might prefer sit-stand desks.

Design spaces for collaboration

During the pandemic, many office workers missed the opportunity to collaborate and socialise with their colleagues in person therefore employers should now place particular emphasis on creating collaborative workspaces. This not only includes ensuring you have meetings rooms where employees can gather to share ideas on a schedule, but also means incorporating spaces for informal collaboration e.g. clusters of comfortable chairs or ample space to gather and chat over lunch.

The ability to meet in person and socialise with peers is crucial to our mental health and can instantly improve our mood.

Provide spaces to switch off

Stress is going to appear in every office no matter what industry you work in. Lower levels of temporary stress are natural and can even be good for our productivity and motivation but prolonged or higher levels of stress can have the opposite effect and have more severe effects on our mental health long term.

This is why all offices must have a space where employees can get away from their workstation for a short period and away from the cause of their stress.

As mentioned previously, you need to find out exactly what your employees need because this stress-free space may look different for different groups of people. Some may prefer doing an activity to take their mind off their stress such as ping pong or pool while others may simply want a calm, quiet space to unwind such as a garden or quiet room.

Consider your colour palette

The colours you use within your workspace often have more impact on your mental health than you may initially think. This is where colour psychology comes in.

Colour psychology explores the emotions that different colours trigger in us. The emotions we feel influence our decisions, our moods and our actions. Often offices are designed with the brand colours in mind, but you should consider whether the brand colours inspire the emotions you want employees to feel. Too much red (that conveys urgency) may make employees feel stressed while too much green (conveying peacefulness) could struggle to motivate them.

Using a carefully curated colour palette within your office design can help you balance consistent branding with the mental health needs of your employees.

Incorporate biophilic design

With workers increasingly spending more time indoors, biophilic design has become a popular way to trigger the same mental and physical responses in people that they would experience outdoors. Many natural elements can improve employee mental health in offices from natural light improving sleep and mood, plants improving air quality and noise pollution, and water providing calming white noise and improving air quality.