How can an office design promote employee productivity and well-being?

In this blog, we explore office design for well-being, the link it has to employee performance, and how you can…

By Lily-Rose Taylor


We’re all living, breathing humans, and it’s undeniable that our surroundings influence how we feel. The same goes for the workplace, where office design should be more than aesthetics to encourage a happy, healthy, and productive team… After all, the average person spends 35% of their waking day in the workplace.

What’s the relationship between office design and productivity?

Uninspiring office spaces lead to uninspired people, which negatively impacts productivity. But workers who like their office space have a 31% higher job satisfaction rate, so there’s no doubt improving your work environment maximises your team’s well-being. Office design for wellbeing and productivity don’t come with a one-size-fits-all approach though. Each team and company have different needs – it’s about getting the balance right for your business. The perfect relationship between office design and productivity considers many factors, such as:

  • Natural light sources
  • Ergonomic workspaces
  • Sustainability and greenery
  • Design for collaboration
  • Flexible office interiors
  • Air quality and ventilation
  • Reducing sound in the office
  • On-site well-being features
  • Attractive office interiors
  • Office size
  • Space optimisation
  • Building configuration

When you take the time to improve your office design for well-being, it helps your employees in many ways…

Increase morale

A disengaged employee costs a company an average of 34% of their annual salary. Creating a thoughtfully designed office space that considers all your employee’s occupational and psychological needs will boost morale. That means not just looking at individuals, but also considering how each employee within different departments works together best and what they need to be most productive, adapting the design to suit.

If your employees enjoy working in the environment they will naturally feel happier, leading to a more vibrant and supportive office culture for well-being.

Boost well-being

The 2023 CIPD survey about health and well-being at work reports that employee sickness and absence levels are at the highest levels reported for over a decade. With that in mind, it’s vital to understand how redesigning your office could help to make your employees healthier – improving both their physical and mental health. Staff will take fewer sick days and enjoy their work more, which costs your company less in downtime.

Better productivity

When employees are comfortable, enjoying their space, and feel healthy, their productivity will be much higher. More productive employees result in a 21% increase in profits for your business, so it’s in your best interest to provide a great working environment.

9 ways to create an office design for productivity and well-being

Now the benefits and relationship between office design and employee productivity are clear, how do you achieve this?

1. Natural light sources

When people don’t get enough natural light, it affects their overall health and well-being. Your office design for well-being, should include as many natural light sources as possible to avoid vitamin D deficiencies and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) symptoms, especially in winter. If you don’t have access to windows, there are advanced light technology options available to closely mimic natural light.

2. Ergonomic workspace designs

To protect your employee’s physical health, your office design should include ergonomic furniture. Supply adjustable, comfortable furniture so each employee can feel supported when sitting at their desks or using communal areas. You also need to think about accessibility and inclusivity for people with different needs, ensuring everyone is accommodated.


3. Sustainability and green spaces

Employees care about how sustainability impacts your office design, with 84% of employees preferring to work for companies that care about the environment. If your staff are eco-conscious, using sustainable materials will benefit their mental health because it supports their values.

A recent study by The University of Exeter suggests plants can make people up to 15% more productive! So, think about adding some greenery to your office design for productivity. Not only does adding natural materials and plants support employee well-being, but it also makes the space look more inviting.

4. Design for collaboration

Encourage teamwork, communication, and collaborative working with your office. Ways to do this include open-plan layouts, using private booths or meeting rooms, and creating different ‘zones’ within the building. The key to this is understanding how your employees work best and designing to offer flexibility but to also maximise your space utilisation.

When you have a clear picture of how your current workplace is used, such as who’s in the office at any one time, how they’re utilising their desk space through the day and what other facilities they need to use, you can identify gaps to plan an improved layout. You want to make sure every area of your office is used effectively, so you can preserve energy and reduce waste.

5. Flexible office interiors

Having furniture that you can move around easily will help you to adapt to the differing needs of employees, also supporting the collaborative working element. Things change and it’s important to think about the future when you’re finalising your office design for well-being.

6. Air quality and ventilation

Poor air quality is proven to diminish cognitive function. When your office space lacks good ventilation, it will directly affect how well your employees work. Poor airflow will likely make employees feel unwell over time, too.

One of the principles of biophilic design, which is designed to allow a deeper connection to nature, is creating a varied temperature and airflow. By mimicking a more natural environment rather than one constant state, it has a positive impact on well-being, comfort, productivity, and concentration. To provide a more natural environment for employees, plan good circulation and ventilation early in the design idea stages, using advanced technology to add subtle changes will make it as effective as possible.

7. Managing acoustics in the office

Many people find it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand when there are high noise levels. If your office space involves lots of meetings or phone calls, you want to create an office design that reduces any unnecessary noise. Managing acoustics is also useful when you need privacy. Giving employees a better sense of confidentiality will make them feel safer to share anything on their minds, which shows emotional intelligence as an employer.

A few ways you can reduce sound or think strategically about noise in the office include: introducing quiet spaces, adding screening between desks, using sound-absorbing materials, adding greenery (see point 3!), and even playing ambient sounds throughout the working day.

For example, in the AXIS House office we play sounds of wildlife throughout the day. Listening to live-streamed YouTube channels which are recording animals through nature cameras. Having this background noise adds a surprising element of calm to the workspace and makes employees feel more connected to nature, supporting biophilic design principles.

8. On-site well-being features

Depending on the size of your office space, you could include a wide range of on-site features to support employee well-being and productivity. You may be able to include gyms or a space for fitness classes. But every company could include a quiet space or nap area for breaks and relaxation, provide healthy snacks, and even bring in healthcare specialists for monthly treatments. These elements support both physical well-being and mental health needs, so are a worthwhile investment.

9. Attractive office interiors

Last but not least, you shouldn’t forget to make your interiors stylish and well-presented. It’s a huge motivator for employees to come into a tidy, clean, and attractive office. Using a bright or highly considered palette of colours, quality materials, and adding interesting decorative wall features will improve mental health. The worst space you could provide is a beige, dull space with no personality!

Ready to start using office design to increase productivity and employee well-being?

Although these are useful rules for making your office design better for productivity, don’t forget to ask your employees for their personal feedback before overhauling your office! Providing an improved work environment will support your overall efforts to create a happier, healthier team, which is always a great investment for your business.

The team at AXIS House are proud to have achieved the WELL Certification, which educates companies on the benefits of investing in your most valuable asset – your people. The teachings include a library of strategies that improve the health and well-being of your people, with over 500 evidence-based designs. This certification has not only supported our team, but we can also apply the practices to our client’s office designs.

So, if you’re looking at using office design to increase productivity and well-being and need help achieving the perfect balance, please get in touch.

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