Designing wellbeing into your office


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We hear a lot about wellbeing within the workplace, its potential benefit for both company growth and employee fulfilment. It’s not all yoga and green tea and the beauty is that it can be taken as far as desired in a pick and mix approach. The key to wellbeing is the suitability of ideas, tailoring these to the individual business needs. We’ve tried to demystify things by providing some insight into key wellbeing ideas; some simple steps that could see you implementing wellbeing into your workplace

1. Give staff a choice

Providing staff with different work settings so they can choose where and how they work depending on task is crucial. This can translate into breakout areas where staff can get away from their desk, quiet rooms when they need to concentrate, open spaces where teams can collaborate and/or small meeting rooms for private meetings or phone calls. 

We have found that through providing these alternative work settings that staff are not only more productive but are also more active as they move around the office on a regular basis. Remember, staff should be up and about for 15-20 minutes an hour and not chained to their desks.

Providing staff with different work settings so they can choose where and how they work depending on task is crucial.

The team at Overbury worked with Travel Counsellors to create an office design that would help foster greater staff collaboration, increase productivity and retain and attract the very best staff. Scroll right to watch the video

2. Let there be light

It's important to pay attention to your office lighting and to define what we like to call, a lighting strategy.

Different tasks require different types and levels of lighting. For example, at your desk in front of your monitor you’ll need around 300 lux while more detailed work will require more powerful lighting, around 500 lux, whereas breakout spaces ideally should be lower, perhaps 150 – 200 lux in some cases.  Why is this?

Light can impact mood and productivity and fine tuning it accordingly can have a major impact. It helps to define areas around the office and encourages staff to mix up their working styles. This strategy also defines areas around an office better and encourages people to mix their working styles up a bit.  

Also think about locating workstations close to natural light as natural light has been shown to be one of the major contributors to an office mood or ambience or put simply, people work better when they can see natural light.

It's important to pay attention to your office lighting and to define what we like to call, a lighting strategy.

3. Rough with the smooth

Office environments can be very monotone in terms of material finishes with smooth, flat finishes dominant. We are however witnessing an increased demand for material diversity and texture being introduced into workplaces and predict that this demand will increase. 

Introducing different textures and finishes can help to frame different activity areas and importantly create a sense of intrigue for staff and visitors alike. Staff hopefully feel stimulated by their work and we feel that there can’t be any harm with a bit of tactile stimulation as well...

An example of different textures being used at the Overbury offices in Bracknell

4. Happy building, happy workforce

Sustainability is now of huge importance to organisations with an emphasis placed on procuring sustainable and recycled materials for any new office. We firmly believe that a healthy building can translate into a healthy workplace and regularly achieve the highest BREEAM, SKA and LEED rating for offices that we design and/or fit out. 

However, we believe that a focus on the environment should not stop with office design and recommend that companies continue to promote recycling, look at ways you can reduce printing and include cycle storage and showering facilities for those commuting on two wheels. All of these can contribute towards both a happy building and a happy workforce.

TripAdvisor HQ, Needham, Massachusetts

5. Food for thought

Designing improved breakout areas into the workplace is really important. Somewhere staff can comfortably spend time away from their desk, grab a coffee, have lunch, read a newspaper and have informal chats can help to foster a pleasant and warm work environment. Remember, shovelling in last night's leftovers over the keyboard can’t be too good for the digestion or keyboard crevices and doesnt contribute towards a social or vibrant office atmosphere. 

Discovering exciting, fresh and nutritious food is a growing national pastime so why should it be excluded from the office. Many companies provide fresh fruit, tea, coffee and water but some go as far as to provide freshly prepared lunches in their staff canteens and healthy snacks through the day. Think about how far you want to go.

Creating a space where staff can grab a coffee, have lunch and socialise with colleagues can lead to a happier, more social workplace.

6. Spin Cycle

It's no secret that more and more people are taking to two wheels as a means of transport to and from the office. We are seeing more and more companies considering the needs of cyclists with improved storage facilities, dedicated showers, drying rooms and even tool bays and pumps, less tucked away in the bowels of the building but celebrated as a key part of an office’s infrastructure.

Employers incorporating these facilities into their workplace are seeing many benefits. It’s a great pull factor, attracting employees who are looking to stay active and speaks volumes of a company’s desire to invest in employee health, advocating time away from the desk, working up a sweat. Companies supporting a bit of exercise can expect to see improved mood, energy levels, better resilience to stress and better rested employees.

More and more companies are including storage, showering facilities and amenities for those who cycle to work.

7. Feel the noise

One of the major issues we encounter is office acoustics and how can companies create a workplace that provides areas of differing volumes. Staff need areas to concentrate, to work together, and to take calls both private and work related, so incorporating areas that cater for these different needs is critical. Having music playing can help to create a welcoming atmosphere, but remember it is important to be able to control it in different areas. 

Also, providing areas for staff to take calls that don't interrupt other workers is important and easily achievable through private booths which can also double as an office feature. Ceiling features such as rafts, slatted timber and fabric lined walls can all help to control office acoustics and need to be considered during the design stage.

Providing staff with areas they can concentrate or take calls is important in today's workplace.

8. Temperature matters

The somewhat hidden and expensive office elements like heating and air conditioning have become super efficient and highly tunable, yet they still create debate as inevitably people will feel too hot or too cool at any stage.

Deciding on an ambient temperature matching the climate and time of year can help to quell such debate, so we recommend spending time focusing on the mechanical and electrical components that feature heavily in any office design and build project. Getting the temperature right is important and will have an effect on the general mood in your workplace.

Getting the temperature right is important and will have an effect on the general mood in your workplace.

9. Artwork

Artwork within the workplace is a great way to add perceived value. The idea behind this is that we respond well to crafted items, be they paintings, stunning bespoke graphics, sculpture or photography. Having access to artwork, not necessarily found within the workplace can bring wider context to problem solving, getting employees to think in a less linear manner from non-work based cues. 

Even better would be to have artwork that changes on a regular basis, creating a fresh feel and enjoyment every couple of months, great for employees and visitors alike. CA final benefit could be from the side of corporate social responsibility; local artists' work could be displayed on a regular basis, networking and launch events could pivot around such displays, making for a very dynamic workplace.

Having Artwork visible within the workplace can bring wider context to problem solving, getting employees to think in a less linear manner.

10. Colour

There’s much science around colour and its use within the workplace, it’s true that ‘low wavelength colours’ such as blues and greens, those found predominately in nature, impart a sense of wellbeing, can calm an environment and aid study. Conversely selecting ‘high wavelength colours’ such as reds, oranges and yellows can stimulate activity, potentially raised heart rate and promote innovation. 

Current thinking advises us to mix things up a bit, don’t over-do it with one colour and keep colours light wherever they’re applied, so not to become too imposing on the overall environment. Think about using colour to demarcate areas and represent a change of activity.  Brand often plays an important part in colour selection so it’s important to reflect a company’s values while having a bit of fun at the same time.

Colour can have a massive impact so remember balance between soft and loud colours is key and that it is important to accurately reflect company values

Throughout this guide, we hope that we have demonstrated that wellbeing can be achieved in a variety of ways and importantly that wellbeing can mean different things to different organisations. It is therefore vital that each organisation is looked at individually and bespoke solutions proposed and implemented that suit their business model and way of working, now and in the future. 

As looked at, giving staff a choice of different work environments alongside effective lighting, sociable breakout areas and bringing the outdoors inside can not only help to increase staff morale but can also lead to increased productivity and greater staff retention. Creating an office environment that embraces wellbeing that works for your organisation can result in a more motivated, stimulated and happy workforce which is we believe that Wellbeing is well worth considering.


Joe Huddleston is a senior project designer at Overbury and works with clients and partners to develop workplace designs, from concept to handover. Joe has forged strong working relationships with architects, developers and end users alike through working on numerous projects. He is passionate about all things workplace and design related and is often spotted on two wheels cycling in the Birmingham area. You can contact Joe by email on or call the Birmingham office on 0121 748 8600.