As the workforce has become more mobile, workdays have become longer, and the lines between work and personal life are often blurred. As a result, it’s become imperative that designers have a deeper understanding of health and well-being in the workplace. The decisions interior designers make concerning the size and arrangements of indoor spaces, as well as the selection of surface materials, furnishings and accessories all directly impact human health and well-being. Here are some things to consider when addressing this newest layer of complexity in design.
Interior designers can influence emotional health and work performance.
There is a growing body of evidence emphasizing the role that design aesthetic has on brain functioning and behavior, affecting everything from worker productivity to feelings of wellness.
We now know that lighting, colors, and even the shape and texture of furniture and accessories all work together to influence how we feel and how we perform, both consciously and subconsciously.
Natural light and visual access to the outdoors enhance both task performance and attitude, so space arrangement should provide access to natural light and views for the users. Color also has a great impact on emotions and feelings. Certain colors can make us feel warm or cold, happy or sad, introspective or talkative. Some colors have been linked to aggression, while others have proven to increase productivity.
Interior designers can allocate space for effective and safe circulation.
When allocating space for circulation, designers should arrange exits and furnishings to make sure that all individuals, regardless of their range of functioning, can access all parts of a space and conduct all desired activities. These elements should also ensure that people can safely exit a building during an emergency.
Interior designers can help maintain good indoor air quality.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), found in many interior finishes and products, contribute to a wide variety of health problems and are a significant cause of “sick building syndrome.” Today, there are a number of products with indoor air quality labels and certifications a designer can specify, including Greenguard and Scientific Certification System’s Indoor Advantage for furniture, GreenLabel and FloorScore for flooring, and Green Seal for paints.
While measuring the emission of VOCs is more commonplace, semi-volatile compounds, like phthalates found in PVC plastics, halogenated flame retardants (HFRs) found in electronics, foams and textiles, and perfluorochemicals (PFCs) which are found in stain- or water-resistant fabrics and furniture, are not always measured. While these chemicals are being voluntarily phased out by some manufacturers, they are still present in many building materials.
Instead of waiting for regulation to prove that a material is harmful, designers should err on the side of caution and look for materials that are known to be safer.
Interior Designers can have an impact on concentration, collaboration, and creativity in the workplace.
In this context, interior layout incorporates workstation density, workspace diversity, active design, and social space allocation.
Workspace density is one of the most important elements of interior layout. High density spaces may be detrimental to well-being and productivity if people feel they don’t have enough personal space.
Research suggests that designing for a diversity of working spaces is key to a productive office. This allows people to choose the most appropriate space for the task, whether quiet concentration or creative interaction.
Active design allows for design features that enable movement around an office building, helping to support healthy metabolic function, combat obesity, and get the blood flowing after prolonged bouts of sitting.
Social spaces where staff can congregate and relax and not be disturbed directly by the working environment are vitally important to workplace well-being.
Health and wellness in the workplace are becoming critical issues as companies fight against the health issues of an aging, sedentary work force. In addition to making important design decisions, interior designers can advocate for policies that encourage things like healthy eating, fitness programs, and stress relief strategies.
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