Employers are increasingly concerned about the health and well-being of their workforce.
And it is easy to understand why.
Figures from Public Health England show that one in three UK workers have a long-term health condition and that an eighth of the workforce has a mental health issue.
Additionally, it is widely considered that healthy and happy employees are typically more productive.
Consequently, increasing numbers of employers are offering their staff wellness programmes.
But office design and furniture can also play a crucial role in the physical and mental health of the people who work there.
With desk jobs increasingly being linked to an early death (sitting is the new smoking we are told), there is an increasing emphasis on ‘active design’ ideas which encourage people to move more in the workplace.
For some, this involves gyms, yoga rooms and dedicated exercise spaces being incorporated into the offices to encourage physical activities.
In other places the changes are more subtle, but they still encourage the worker to move more. This can be as simple as having shared printer or photocopier rooms located in the central part of a building which everyone needs to walk to.
Social spaces, refreshment rooms and collaboration zones not only encourage workers to leave their workstations, but also allow them to unwind and relax a little, especially when they include things like giant beanbags, comfy sofas and even snooze pods.
One of the big trends at the moment is large open staircases carefully located to encourage as many workers as possible to use them rather than lifts. The wider they are, the more appealing they look, especially when compared to cramped elevators.
With 45 per cent of women and 37 per cent of men spending less than 30 minutes of the working day on their feet, organisations are increasingly taking a stand against the traditional desk.
Sit-stand desks are becoming an increasingly popular alternative workstation and enable employees to carry out their work in both seating and standing positions.
The number of calories this burns is around 114 per hour, which is certainly more active than sitting, and studies have shown it can increase alertness and creativity and help with back pain – important when one in ten workers report having musculoskeletal conditions.
Treadmill workstations are a more active variation of the sit-stand desk, while in some other offices chairs have been replaced by exercise balls.
Technological advances also play a role in improving workplace health. The rise of portable technology, combined with WiFi, means that employees have been untethered from the traditional desk. They can now work from anywhere in the building and can move at regular intervals throughout the day. Some businesses even offer Wi-Fi enabled balconies, allowing their employees to work in natural daylight and enjoy fresh air.
Organisations which can’t so easily take their work outside are increasingly bringing Mother Nature into the office.
Gone are the days where the only bit of vegetation in the workplace was a dusty under-watered spider plant. Nature is increasingly being incorporated into the workplace, through living walls, moss walls, green dividers, indoor trees and even indoor gardens, and this can reportedly play a role in reducing stress and preventing sick days. Research has also shown it can improve productivity.
And believe it or not, even the colour of the office can have a part in workforce wellbeing, with research showing that low wavelength colours like blue and green providing a calming effect, alleviating stress and improving concentration.
Grey, beige and white, perhaps not surprisingly, can leave employees feeling sad and depressed.
To paraphrase David Hockney, ‘we prefer living in colour’.