Physical Office Environment
The quality of the physical office environment in which you work, whether in practice or at home, can have a huge impact on wellbeing and productivity. Section five of the Architects Mental Wellbeing Toolkit offers tips on how to make positive adaptations to work spaces.
When it comes to mental wellbeing, it is important to understand the impact of the physical office environment on staff happiness (and subsequently productivity). We realise that many architectural practices work where they do out of necessity and, of course, very few practices ever provide their ‘dream office environment’. However, there are numerous small, inexpensive changes that can be made to any office that can have a positive impact upon mental wellbeing. In our post-COVID world, with many people in forms of lockdown, it is also important to consider the quality of your home work space and make adjustments there too.
Tips for practices
- Talk to your team about the practice’s prioritisation of a safe, healthy and productive workplace.
- Provide generous levels of natural light and appropriate artificial lighting
- Incorporate nature (including pets!) and, if not possible, provide views of nature.
- Make the office ergonomically and physically comfortable, from furniture to temperature and acoustics.
- Allow employees to personalise and adapt their work spaces.
- Encourage movement and activity – both in commuting and throughout the day.
- Provide an aesthetically pleasing office – this can have a surprising impact on mood, as well as the sense of pride in a company.
Tips for individuals
- Speak up if your office set-up isn’t working for you – everybody has different needs and it is vital you feel comfortable in your working environment.
- If you have an idea for a positive change in your office, put together a good case (with evidence of the wellbeing benefits) before presenting it to senior staff.
- Remember to stay active throughout the day, even if your office layout may not be designed to promote this. Rather than bring one large bottle of water to work, use a smaller glass that encourages you to stand and refill it regularly, for example.
- If working from home, ensure your workspace is ergonomically sound and comfortable, and that you have regular check-ins with colleagues and exercise breaks away from the computer.
- Happy by Design – A Guide to Architecture and Mental Wellbeing – Ben Channon, RIBA Publishing. Reveals how architecture and design can make us happy and support mental health, and explains how poor design can have the opposite effect.
- The WELL Building Standard – A vehicle for buildings and organisations to deliver more thoughtful and intentional spaces that enhance human health and wellbeing.
- Working Well: Office design for good mental health – Niels Kramer, WorkDesign Magazine.
- Working from home: A checklist to support your mental health – Black Dog Institute.
- Graduate Certificate in Design for Health and Wellbeing – Melbourne University, Australia’s first qualification in design for health and wellbeing.
This is an excerpt from the first edition of the Architects Mental Wellbeing Toolkit (Australia), an edited version of the UK Toolkit, which was compiled by members of the Architects Mental Wellbeing Forum in the UK – a group that John Assael and Ben Channon set up in late 2017 with the ambition of improving mental health across the profession.
This toolkit includes content and resources specific to Australia. We would like to thank Ben Channon and the AMWF UK for their generosity in allowing us to tailor this Toolkit for the Australian profession. Thanks also to Artemis Nikolopoulou, who designed the UK Toolkit, and Siân Rearden for the illustrations.