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What is employee wellbeing?

Employee wellbeing is a modern concept which seeks to improve the physical, mental and emotional state of staff while they are at work. On the surface level, it includes things like:

  • Comfort and reducing physical injury
  • Mental health and ‘psychological safety’
  • A healthy work-life balance
  • Making sure people valued and part of the professional community

However, when you dig a little deeper, it’s clear that ‘employee wellbeing’ (or similar) is an overarching umbrella term for what has fast become an expansive and all-encompassing approach. An approach which employers and business owners today need to get on board with if they want to attract and retain the best talent in their industries.

The different types of employee wellbeing

Environmental wellbeing

This is part is about fostering an environment which encourages staff to be happy, healthy and productive. The working habitat which you create will then naturally have an impact on the various other elements of wellbeing which we’ll summarise next.

Our design tips:

  • Take measures to improve office air quality
  • Incorporate plants and other biophilic elements
  • Let as much natural light into the space as possible

Click for more reading on the benefits of natural light in the workplace.

What is the difference between an office fit out and office refurbishment

Physical wellbeing

As the name suggests, this is about the physical aspects of looking after employees – including things like comfort, movement around the workplace and reducing work-related injuries.

Our advice:

  • Consider inclusive workplace design to ensure accessibility for all
  • Introduce ergonomic furniture which is designed to adapt to the human body
  • Facilitate agile working with diverse work settings to encourage more freedom of movement and mobility during the day
  • Include things like walking meetings, gym memberships, cycle to work schemes and lunch time activities as part of your workplace culture to boost physical activity levels

Agile working environment

Psychological & mental wellbeing

This category under the umbrella of workplace wellbeing is perhaps one of the most prominently covered. It encompasses all things mental health and making sure staff feel safe and valued no matter what their mental health status may be. It’s also about limiting things like stress, frustration and burnout by fostering a working culture which encourages breaks ‘away from the desk’, private focus work and facilitation of both digital and analogue creativity.

Our design tips:

  • Create designated rejuvenation spaces where people can go to relax and take a break
  • Ensure there are enough private zones where people can go to escape noise, distraction and also benefit from confidentiality when necessary
  • Carefully consider fabrics, colours and finishes so as not to trigger any mental illnesses such as autism
  • Permit flexible working so staff feel that they have autonomy over their own working day and also help them strike a positive relationship between private and professional lives

Social wellbeing

This aspect of wellbeing is all about creating a sense of community within the workplace and ensuring that everybody feels an equal and valued part of it. It’s also about doing everything you can to improve communication and idea-sharing between both departments and individual members of staff.

Our design tips:

  • Incorporate purpose-built social spaces where people can interact more casually
  • Create breakout spaces and rejuvenation areas where staff can communicate without the pressures of the professional hierarchy
  • Take measures to foster stronger feelings of community and belonging, as advised by Steelcase as part of its 6 Dimensions of Workplace Wellbeing

Simple ways to improve mental health in the workplace

A holistic approach to office design & fit out

While it’s clear to see that there are different elements of employee wellbeing, it’s important to remember that you really need to be addressing all of them in some way for it to be effective. For example – even if you have a biophilic office kitted out with comfortable ergonomic furniture, you won’t get the most out of the space users if they don’t feel psychologically safe and emotionally supported.

Ensuring that you broach employee wellbeing and workplace wellness holistically will ensure that employees are happy, motivated, productive and willing to communicate openly with colleagues. So, while any initial design or culture changes might seem like an investment of time and money at first, they will inevitably have a significant and positive impact on the bottom line eventually.


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