Interior Design has a significant role in supporting health and wellbeing in the workplace

Our workplaces significantly influence health and well-being and, for many, they are the major element of our daily routine. Our workspaces can enhance physical health, mental well-being, and overall quality of life through considered and appropriate design. In this Insight paper by Gavin King, our UK Interiors Director, we explore the interplay between interior design and well-being, emphasising the critical elements contributing to a healthy environment that Chapman Taylor considers appropriate when designing a client's workplace.

1. Social Cohesion – the most important function of a workplace is to provide a physical embodiment of the organisation’s core values and brand. It re-enforces the group structure and creates an idea of belonging to, often disparate, users.

(a). Communal Spaces: Arguably, the primary function of the post-COVID workplace is to provide a destination to support employee interaction and company cohesion. The workplace needs to be an embodiment of the values and the culture of the company, and it needs to be a place where people want to gather and interact with their colleagues and teammates. Communal spaces have long been considered essential in supporting the ‘water cooler effect’, allowing chance encounters where idea sharing can occur. The value these spaces bring is equally as crucial as desks and meeting rooms in contributing to the growth and efficiency of the organisation.

(b). Inclusivity and Accessibility: Designing spaces that are inclusive and accessible to all individuals, regardless of age or ability, is crucial for social well-being and maximising everyone’s potential. As designers, we must understand everyone’s ‘barriers’ to effective integration. This may be obvious regarding level changes and tonal distinctions or extremely subtle in identifying how to address neurodiversity and individual needs.

(c). Agile environments: that support the variety of activities people undertake and, most importantly, the power to ‘choose’ which suits your particular needs at a given time.

2. Physical Health – promoting movement and activity in the workplace by encouraging circulation and interaction, and recognising the surrounding environment's critical impact on people’s wellbeing.

(a). Air Quality: Poor indoor air quality can lead to respiratory problems, allergies, and other health issues. Our work with the European Space Agency, where we advised them on healthy ‘Covid-cognisant’ workplaces, demonstrated the need to limit the spread of airborne viruses and deliver clean & fresh air supply to the places people work. Data gathering on air quality and AI analysis can ensure effective workplace design, incorporating ventilation systems that provide fresh air in sustainable solutions. In addition, using appropriate air-purifying plants, non-toxic (low VOC) materials, and proper ventilation systems can further aid in reducing
pollutants and allergens, improving indoor air quality.

(b). Lighting Design: Natural light regulates circadian rhythms, affecting sleep patterns and overall health. Interior designers can maximise natural light by strategically zoning buildings to ensure that the places where people spend most of their time benefit from proximity to natural daylight. Additionally, lighting solutions can be designed to mimic natural daylight as it changes subtly throughout the day.

(c). Ergonomics: Ergonomically designed furniture helps prevent musculoskeletal disorders and promotes comfort. Chairs, desks, and other furnishings should support proper posture and movement. Adjustable furniture that accommodates different body types and activities can help reduce the risk of strain and injury. However, greater importance should be given to encouraging and supporting movement throughout the day. This is not only ergonomically beneficial but also encourages communication and collaboration. Choice and empowerment to choose which work setting suits you best at any given time is a significant benefit to physical health.

(d). Temperature control: Acceptable ambient temperatures differ depending on Age, Sex and personal inclinations – either localised control or the potential to move to areas that are warmer/cooler will allow users to select the temperature they feel comfortable with.

3. Mental Wellbeing - An individual’s mental well-being is every bit as important as their physical condition, and this is not a consistent state—changes and external influences can shift an individual's mental health over time.

(a). Biophilic Design: Biophilic design integrates natural elements into the built environment, promoting a connection with nature that has been shown to reduce stress and improve mental health. This can include incorporating indoor plants, water features, natural materials, and views of nature. Such designs help create a calming and restorative atmosphere, however the provision of these elements needs commitment and capital for maintenance and upkeep. Poorly kept plants have a significantly detrimental effect on the well-being of the people using the space.

(b). Psychology: There have been some exciting developments in studying how our surroundings can influence how our brain ‘works’. Different environments support/counter-react to the electronic pulses that fire our brains. Environments significantly impact how we communicate, collaborate, study or reflect, with advancements in neuro-diversity understanding highlighting the importance of workplace setting variety in order to capitalise on the contribution of all.

(c) Acoustics/Privacy: Proper space planning ensures that areas are used efficiently, balancing open communal spaces and private areas. Individuals need spaces for both social interaction and solitude, designing flexible and adaptable spaces can enhance mental well-being by catering to different activities and needs. A wide variety of spaces, combined with the autonomy to choose, empowers people to select the work setting they feel will best support them, specific to the task they are undertaking.

(d). Scents/sounds in the workplace: We need to appeal to all of an individual’s senses to maximise the benefit of the workplace as an environment to support general well-being – pink noise can contribute to background noise transference whilst music can create a soothing backdrop to certain workplace activities. Likewise, fragrances can calm or excite depending on the scents and their locations. It is important, though, to recognise that the workplace can benefit from these interventions as options and alternatives; individuals need to have either control or the ability to move to the places they feel benefit and support them in their task to hand.


Interior design plays a pivotal role in promoting health and well-being in the workplace. By considering factors such as air quality, natural light, ergonomics, psychology and biophilic design, designers can create environments that support physical, mental, and social health. As the understanding of the relationship between design and well-being grows, the importance of incorporating these principles into all types of spaces becomes increasingly evident. Future trends in interior design will likely continue to prioritise health and wellbeing, embracing AI technologies to deliver supportive and practical working environments.

About the Author

Gavin King

Director, UK

Gavin joined Chapman Taylor in 2021 to help reinforce and expand our capability in the workplace sector, in which he has more than 25 years of award-winning experience working as an Interior Designer with global clients, government agencies, academia and professional services organisations.

Having worked on projects with a diverse range of well-known clients, Gavin has extensive experience in leading multidisciplinary teams and is frequently invited to contribute to roundtable discussions and networking events. He is able to quickly build strong relationships with clients and end-users and excels at briefing and engagement.

Gavin passionately believes in working with clients and collaboratively including them in the design process, and he has a keen interest in how design can support business change, believing there is a need to focus on delivering economically successful projects that support clients in their business objectives.

Areas of expertise:

Interiors / Workplace / Mixed-Use / Project Leadership / Client Liaison / Delivery

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