Office design can improve happiness by over a third in employees

Office design can improve happiness by over a third in employees

With more people returning to the office, sometimes reluctantly, it’s important to make the office environment as welcoming and as comfortable as possible. Experts at Savoy Stewart, a commercial property agent and property surveyor, offered their tips on how to create an office environment that minimises staff stress and burnout.

A recent report has found that sick days at work have hit the highest level in 10 years.

YouGov for Mental Health UK has revealed that one in five workers requested time off due to poor mental health caused by workplace pressure or stress in the past year.

However, strong office design can make employees up to 33% happier at work, says recent reports. 

With this in mind, the experts at Savoy Stewart provided their insight into just how to create an office environment that minimises staff stress and burnout as much as possible.

Provide quiet spaces

Often in open plan offices, it’s hard to break away from the constant hustle and bustle. According to a recent survey, 58% of employees reported that they need more quiet work spaces and 54% find their office environment ‘too distracting’.

Providing quiet zones, such as solo pods, quiet booths or even areas where no phones or music are allowed, gives staff that escape and time to think, as well as giving staff the opportunity to take meetings or breaks in different environments. 

Giving your staff the autonomy to work in whatever space that suits them, may it be quiet spaces when they need to concentrate or more social settings when they’re feeling creative, gives them more privacy and opportunity to concentrate on their work.

Splashes of colour

Additions such as adding a splash of colour can lighten your employees’ mood, according to Mental Health America. Bright, warm colours such as reds, oranges and yellows can stimulate energy and positivity, and therefore would work best in meeting rooms, kitchens and other areas where staff may socialise. 

While cool, subdued tones are considered soothing and calming – so consider using blues, greens and purples for breakout rooms and quieter spaces.

Avoid colours such as grey, which has a lack of energy and won’t inspire joy, and red, which can increase aggression and passion, which may be too intense for an office atmosphere.


Scientific studies have reported that adding greenery to your staff’s workspace can have a positive effect, reducing stress, increasing productivity and even reducing sickness rates.

A study by the Agricultural University of Norway analysed 51 offices and found that the introduction of plants to one office was linked to a 25% decrease in symptoms of ill health, including fatigue, headaches, concentration problems, coughs and dry skin.

If your office has poor ventilation, then your team may be at risk of developing sick building syndrome, so adding some air purifying plants can remove any unwanted toxins.

Aloe vera, peace lily and spider plants are all great enhancements for any office, as they’re low maintenance and known for air-purifying.

Natural lighting

Natural light is essential for staff wellbeing, so opting for large windows to let in the light is key. Your staff might spend all day in the office and risk not seeing sunlight at all on those shorter winter days.

Office fads such as treadmill desks, nap pods and ‘bring your dog to work day’ are all great, however The Harvard Business Review reported that access to natural light is the single most important factor employees want in their working environments.

Almost half (47%) of employees also admitted they feel tired or very tired from the absence of natural light or a window at their office, and 43% reported feeling gloomy because of the lack of light.

Manage workplace stressors

And finally, with stress and job burnout a leading cause of staff sickness, identifying and addressing those stressors within the role is crucial. 

When staff are put in high-stress situations, whether this be unreasonable deadlines, unclear expectations or unmanageable workloads, they are at risk of burnout.

Georgina Sturmer, MBACP Counsellor (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy), said: “Employers can manage workplace stress for their staff by building a culture that acknowledges the impact that stress has on employees and that offers an open dialogue to support employees in how they manage their stress. 

“Employers can lead by example, by sharing how they are being proactive about managing their own stress levels – asking for help, delegating work, using their annual leave and taking regular breaks during the work day.”

You can also provide simple extras around the office such as stress balls, oil diffusers and desktop organisers for a healthier atmosphere.

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