Workplace stress: How design can create calm
From biophilia to acoustics and clever colour choices, Interior Designer Ruth Evans explains how responsible design can reduce stress levels.
Interior Designer Ruth Evans firmly believes we need to embed wellbeing into workplace design, right from the embryonic stages. “It’s easy to underestimate the impact the built environment has on our mental health, especially our stress levels, but if we invest in building workspaces with wellbeing in mind, we can help reduce stress levels for employees. Wellbeing needs to be considered from the embryonic stages of a project, right through to the end user. In our profession we have a social responsibility and obligation.”
"In order to design for wellbeing, it’s essential to understand how an organisation works. When doing workplace consultancy for example, I often find people work alone throughout the day, without the opportunity to chat to or even see other people. But if you know certain groups are isolated, you can create a design that ensures they have somewhere to gather, where they can benefit from peer support."
Bringing the outside in with materials and colour
We’re using timber more and more. People are starting to demand natural materials too – we’re currently working on a project at a SEN school and the head has asked for wooden floors. People are drawn to nature and the relaxation it affords.
CPMG redesigned the library at the University of Teesside and used colours to great effect. We created a social space on the ground floor, collaborative group working space on the first floor and quiet study space on the second floor. On every floor we made a conscious decision to use different seasonal shades, and it completely changed the way the students were working. In the collaborative space we used energising summer shades to encourage imagination, including yellows, pinks and reds. In contrast, the study area was decorated in muted blues, while the ground floor social space was painted in spring-like soft yellows and greens.
We specified desks and chairs in natural wood, and introduced a mix of big collaboration tables and booth seating too. We also punched floor-to-ceiling windows into all four corners of the building, so people could sit on window seats and expose themselves to more natural light.
Students who had previously worked in isolation and felt lonely were drawn to a space where they could chat. It changed the way they felt and, for some, it totally transformed their university life.
Students reported that they found the study area calmer, and the collaborative floor was a big success too.
The importance of autonomy
Autonomy is fundamental. If you have control over your lighting or thermal comfort, it gives you a sense of ownership and can positively influence your state of mind. Noise reduction is important too, because bad acoustics can make it hard to focus on work, which then has a big impact on stress levels.
At Teesside library, we installed long runs of benches which allowed for collaboration, but included the option for students to use rectangular acoustic screens. It means they can have headspace and quiet time to destress when they need it. It’s all about giving people choice.
CPMG Workplace Consultancy
Our [work]place consultancy can help with goals for wellbeing and productivity (the rate of output per unit of input). They rely on much more than an efficient working environment; they rely on motivation too. It’s imperative that we put people first: it’s all about you and the three aspects of your life at work which contribute to wellbeing, motivation and so, productivity.
We can help develop the design and with our integrated team of architects, interior designers and space planners to ensure that your space is a place where people achieve their best. See more of our strategy here.