5 Workplace Design Elements That Promote Wellness

  • A workplace environment that fosters wellness and happiness can lead to improved company performance, productivity, and profits.
  • While wellness programs and policies promote a culture of wellbeing at work, it’s equally important that the built environment contributes to a person’s health.
  • Here are 5 design elements that promote workplace wellness for the benefit of your people, and ultimately, your bottom line.

Increasingly, companies are starting to use the workplace as a means to promote the health and wellbeing of professionals. Taking into consideration that adults spend the majority of their time at work, it should be natural for companies to create workplace environments that foster wellness and happiness. 

There are countless studies that show that promoting mental and physical wellness in the workplace leads to improved company performance, productivity, and profits. 

Suggested Reading: “These Statistics Prove that Wellness Improves the Workplace Experience

While implementing wellness programs (here are 20 workplace wellness initiatives you can easily implement) and policies are key to promoting a culture of wellbeing at work, it’s equally as important that the built environment contributes to a person’s health. This has given rise to the human-experience workplace, an important shift from the space-centric approach of past years. Instead of focusing on maximizing square footage, companies are increasingly using workplace design to promote wellbeing and in turn drive productivity and performance. 

The human-experience workplace places people at the center of the design and layout process. In fact, earlier this year in a report, Gensler stated that designing for the human experience is the future of design

In the whitepaper “Workplace Design for Well-being”, Haworth argues that “a significant opportunity exists for organizations to unlock the potential of office design as a means of enhancing well-being, leading to a healthier, more engaged and high performing workforce.” This has become a critical topic for many companies, as ignoring mental and physical health at work can cost the economy billions.


Organizations like the WELL Building Institute and the Fitwel Rating are providing companies with a set of guidelines and standards on how to create healthy, human-focused environments. These organizations believe that when well-being is built into the design of a space, it can positively impact physical and mental health. Haworth rightly notes in its research that when a company provides a work environment that “holistically affects the wellbeing, satisfaction, and happiness of their workforce, they can expect people to be more engaged, ultimately leading to higher organizational performance.”

5 Design Elements that can Promote Workplace Wellness 

1. Incorporate Nature

In a recent interview with Allwork.Space, Philip Vanhoutte, author of The Smarter Working Manifesto and co-founder of Ozadi, rightly stated that “being in rooms that have no view of nature is scandalous. The only time people should be in boxes without windows is when they are dead.” Though oftentimes a building’s location or other construction characteristics make it harder to let nature in, there are other ways through which organizations can incorporate nature elements into the built environment. 

One way to do this is through biophilic design, which encourages companies to add nature to space through plants, water, and scents. This is complemented by incorporating natural textures and patterns such as wood and stone, and by embracing nature configurations within a space, which can be done by providing access to views, having private areas, and having clearly visible exits. 

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Suggested Reading: “The 7 Best Low-Maintenance Plants for the Workplace

2. Let the Light In

A poll by HR advisory firm Future Workplace found that access to natural light is one of the top most valued attributes of the workplace environment.  According to Haworth, lighting plays a key role in enabling people to see and execute tasks in a safe and comfortable manner. Furthermore, natural light helps regulate our circadian rhythm and hormonal activity and it can also help prevent eye strain, headaches, and fatigue. All of the above affect quality of sleep, energy, mood, and productivity. 

Studies have also shown that lack of natural light can upset our cognitive processing, creativity levels, and mental and physical health. Here are 11 tricks to help you maximize natural light in your workplace

3. Keep the Noise Down

Just as natural light is one of the most valuable attributes of a workplace, noise is one of the least valued ones. In fact, noise is one of the most common workplace complaints and studies have found that “dissatisfaction with noise is statistically the strongest indicator of poorly perceived productivity and the main source of workspace dissatisfaction.”

There are various ways to manage noise levels in the workplace; it can be done by using materials that absorb or block sounds, as well as by covering unpleasant noises with pleasant ones like sounds of water or birds chirping. Companies have also invested in pods and are increasingly creating quiet or private areas that can be used when people need to carry out focus work. 

Suggested Reading: “Soundproofing on a Budget: Tips and Tools for Soundproofing Your Coworking Space

4. Mind the Air

This is probably one design element that is most often overlooked. Poor-quality air can negatively affect a person’s cognitive performance and research has found that better air leads to better decision-making, especially in areas like strategic decisions, planning, staying prepared, and strategizing during crises. 

Better air quality will not only improve performance and productivity, but it is vital to good health; indoor pollutants can cause headaches, nausea, asthma, respiratory irritation, and allergies. Here are 9 easy ways to improve your workplace air quality.

5. Embrace Ergonomics 

People spend most of their time at work sitting, which is detrimental to a person’s health according to the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization. Ergonomic furniture like height adjustable desks and chairs can go a long way in improving posture and reducing the negative impact of sitting for prolonged periods of time. There’s also been a rise in active sitting options, which encourages small, light movements to improve physical and mental health

But ergonomics goes beyond furniture and you can apply ergonomic principles to your space by creating a variety of spaces that encourage movement and interaction.  This can be done by strategically placing water fountains, stairwells, photocopiers, meeting rooms, and so on, as well as by creating lounge areas, standing meeting rooms, and encouraging walking meetings. The idea is that the work environment doesn’t place undue strain on the body. 

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