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How the workplace environment affects well-being

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have focused greatly on the challenges of mental health in the workplace over the past 18 months.1 Workplace fit-out company Evoke Projects examines how the office environment impacts on mental health and well-being, with strategies for creating a more positive environment.


WHO report

The WHO tells us that mental health conditions affect a person’s confidence and identity at work, capacity to work productively, absences and the ease with which they retain or gain work. In fact, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety at a cost of US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.2 With this in mind, any steps that can be taken to improve well-being in the workplace are worthwhile.


How does the workplace environment affect well-being?

While ergonomics and hazardous environments are obvious contributors to physical well-being, mental well-being issues can fly under the radar. The effects are often subtle, but long-term and potentially debilitating. Negative environmental factors usually stem from a poor office design and/or an unsupportive workplace culture.


Create a positive workplace environment with good office design

As well as being seen as a caring employer, research consistently shows that productivity is higher in well-designed offices because staff are motivated and feel appreciated and valued.


·        Zoning

Create activity based work zones within the office fit-out for focused work, collaboration, brainstorming, training, breakout, privacy and technology/printing. Let people choose where to work based on the task at hand. Giving people a sense of control over their work and the ability to make decisions positively impacts well-being. As well as improving well-being and productivity, an office design that incorporates activity based working also lowers the square metre cost per person.

·        Encourage physical activity through office design

Sedentary work environments contribute to a lack of physical activity, which can negatively affect health. Invest in office furniture such as sit-stand desks and treadmill desks. Locate printers away from workstations to encourage movement during the day.

·        Sensory care

Poor air quality, excessive noise and inadequate or harsh lighting are examples of subtle issues that can cause long-term harm. Eye strain, respiratory issues or hearing damage may not be evident in the short term, but the employee will be feeling the underlying stress. As a manager or office designer, spend time in each work zone listening to noise, testing air quality, re-enacting people’s workflow and observing light and temperature at different times of day.

·        Get back to nature

Nature sustains and supports our well-being, which leads to better mental health. Biophilic workplace design helps people be closer to nature while at work. Introduce water features or indoor plants. As well as aesthetic appeal, plants filter the air and remove mould and bacteria. Increasing natural daylight should be a priority for your next office fit-out.

·        Add homely touches

Lounge furniture, cushions, rugs and artwork will soften the corporate feel of your office environment and make it a more pleasant place to be.

·        Colour your world

Certain colours affect our mood and motivation at work. For example, restful green and calming blue are said to improve efficiency and focus. Yellow inspires creativity.


Foster a culture of good health and support

The WHO has produced fact sheets and guidelines on mental health at work.3 A workplace that fosters a culture of support, positive relationships, inclusion and empathy will enhance well-being.

  • The culture of a company starts from the top down so good leadership is vital. Train line managers to watch out for signs of stress.
  • Build a culture and environment that encourages staff to use breakout spaces to refresh, reinvigorate and lift their mood. Support health initiatives suggested by employees.
  • Inclusivity and motivation are helped by common goals. Make everyone feel part of the same team working towards the company objectives. Don’t focus on the profits but on what it takes to be profitable, such as first class customer service and supporting your brand values.
  • Make health considerations part of the day. For example, provide healthy snack options in the kitchen.
  • Encourage fitness with social and work activities that involve movement. Yoga, a cycling club, walking meetings, hourly “Stand Up” announcements… brainstorm with your team to find ideas that work for your company.


Companies that consider well-being and environmental factors during an office fit-out will reap the benefits. It becomes a holistically positive workplace where team members feel valued and cared about. For workplace design and fit-out ideas for better mental health and well-being, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.

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