Reduce workplace stress with clever office design

Colm Murphy, Head of Design - Enterprise Biophilia, Design, Wellbeing

Recent labour force statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that in 2020/21, workplace stress “accounted for 50% of all work related ill health cases” which is equal to a staggering loss of 38.8 million working days.

As an employer, it’s not always possible to reduce stressful workloads or roles, but you can support your employees by creating an office environment that improves feelings of wellbeing.


Our bodies need regulated serotonin levels and natural light to function well. They help promote healthy sleep patterns, learning, information recall, mental alertness and a general good mood. Importantly, it also helps us to prevent the onset of depression, anxiety and stress.

Workspaces should be flooded with as much natural light as possible by replacing any solid walls or partitions with glass or, where possible, remove them to create an open-plan office interior. If this is not possible, try substituting it with artificial daylight or full spectrum light bulbs.

Companies should also encourage conscientious employees to take breaks and step outside for an unfiltered dose of daylight at lunchtimes or even meetings if possible.


Adding some plants is a great way to brighten up an office but their benefits go much further. Studies show that they help improve office air quality and limit noise pollution and can actually reduce tension, depression, anxiety and fatigue by 37- 58%.

Plants like Areca and Kentia Palms or Dragon Trees are large, easy-care, and perfect for the office, adding colour, interest and functionally dividing up work areas.

Relaxing Areas

There is a new era of trust upon us in the workplace in offices and this era is helping inspire workers and remove stress. Wherever possible, companies should create specific work zones so their people can find a quiet spot away from their desk to focus or a purposeful space to collaborate in such as at MS Society, where different zonal areas have been incorporated to adhere to the different needs of its user. But don’t forget to give them the tools and technology so they are able to work effectively. Designating a calm, relaxing space such as a wellbeing room for them to retreat to so they can refresh their minds and de-stress.


Getting active and regular exercise is one of the best remedies for stress and you’ll probably benefit from healthier more motivated, more sociable staff too.

Townhall areas are a great way to create a space for wellbeing activities within the workplace. For alternative asset managers, Preqin, their large townhall space offers a plethora of options for wellbeing activities such as weekly yoga or hit classes. For landlords, incorporating facilities such as showers and super loos into their facilities offering adds wellbeing benefits to their lettable assets.

Centralise refreshments, printing and recycling points to encourage people to leave their desks and walk around. It’s great exercise, but more importantly they create opportunities for social interaction which can also help relieve feelings of isolation and stress.


There are numerous studies which show how colour positively impacts the way we feel. Bright colours such as red, orange, and yellow can boost creativity but too much of them can actually contribute to feelings of stress. Alternatively, use a soothing colour palette of neutral creams, greys or muted pastel tones and then bring out the brighter colours for your office accessories and company branding.

Detail shot of brown terazzo worktop with brown leather seating

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