Office Furniture Design Impacts our Health, Business & Planet

Do the new trends in office furniture design support health, wellbeing & productivity in the workplace?  Are office design trends environmentally friendly?

Office Furniture Design trends are moving towards more flexible and open concept work environments. Is this a fad created by young, trendy tech companies so they can work in a college-like environment? Is this a Peter Pan syndrome induced trend that will fizzle away after a few years?  

A recent study by the World Green Building Council shows why this move toward a new type of workspace is more than just a fun, uplifting, and healthy place to work; it is also good for business. The study presents research, and evaluation of the results, on how certain office design features impact productivity, health and wellbeing of people while they work. It also shows the effect it has on the environment, and the business’ bottom line.

Staff costs typically account for 90% of business operating costs, so considering their health and well being is important. Any small positive change can have a great amount of impact on an organization.  

“Report findings undeniably affirm that buildings can maximize benefits for people, and leave the planet better off as well” 

“Research clearly demonstrates that the design of the office has a material impact on the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants” 

Windows, Natural Light, and Nature

Research shows that there are physical and mental health benefits to working near a window. The natural light and a view (especially if it is a nature view) are important. Natural light offers the highest levels of colour rendering, so for those in the design or creative industry; this is especially important. Access to natural light cuts down on the amount of light needed from interior lights. A window offers a variety in views where the eyes need to adjust and re-focus for various distances, reducing eye strain and strengthening the health of the eye.  

Nature is not only nice to look at, but studies continue to show that being in the presence of nature has a positive affect on our health and wellbeing.  

Recent study by neuroscientists suggested that office workers with windows received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours, and slept an average of 46 more minutes per night. Those without windows reported poorer scores and increased dissatisfaction. 

Overall performance in a call centre for those who had a window view increased the processing speed of their calls from 7% to 12%.

A Japanese study found that taking a walk in the forest can decrease cortisol (stress) levels by 12%, decrease sympathetic nerve activity by 7% (anxiety), decrease blood pressure by 1% and decrease heart rate by 5%

When designing your office layout, it is suggested that cubicles (or task areas be put close to the windows to gain maximum natural light. Sensors can be installed to have interior lights turn on when light levels fall below the recommended 300 lux. When designing a building and office space, consider including atriums, courtyards, a living wall, and a roof-top gardens. If you are looking to improve existing space and budget is limited, consider grouping plants in break out areas. For cubicles, small plants that are high in producing oxygen and easy to maintain are best (such as the English Ivy). Trees and foliage offers a view that can lower stress, it is good for our environment, and helps to keep out noise that can be caused by high traffic areas.

With office real estate costs increasing, sustainable design is challenged with finding the right balance of cost effectiveness, without overcrowding and compromising on health and wellbeing of its occupants. The trend towards open concept and flexible design offers the ability to maximize the amount of space being used while supporting positive outcomes for health and wellness.  

Office Furniture Design

It is easier now than ever before to find office furniture  design to meet the variety of needs in a mixed office that includes task-based spaces, meeting rooms, breakout spaces, social areas and quiet areas. Whether designing for a new space or retrofitting an existing space, a variety of furniture can be found to improve productivity, mood, health, aesthetics, communication, safety and our environment. Modern office furniture is modular, light-weight and mobile to be able to change or customize the space for the needs of the group. Ergonomic research has provided office furniture manufacturers with the information needed to design office chairs that consider the biomechanics of the body; supporting muscles and joints during tasks that require sitting for long periods of time. But remember, not all office furniture is created equal. Quality in design, materials and construction of your office furniture provides a long term investment, both in the product itself, and in the health, wellbeing and productivity of those using it.  

Of course, sustainable design must consider costs and impact on the planet alongside health and wellbeing of the occupants. Remanufactured office furniture not only diverts gently used furniture away from our landfills, but it can be customized to the needs of the office space at a considerably lower cost to the owner.  


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