Office Refurbishment with a Focus on Health and Wellbeing

2016 was a pivotal year for workplace design and office refurbishments which focussed on health and wellbeing, where many companies re-designed their workspaces taking inspiration from companies like Google, Lego, ASOS, Red Bull, Innocent and Apple who are known for their innovative and forward thinking office refurbishments which focus on their staff’s wellbeing, happiness, and loyalty resulting in greater staff retention, increased productivity, which in turn, boosts profit margins.

As all companies know, staff are a very important aspect of any business. Richard Branson is famously quoted as saying ‘Learn to look after your staff first and the rest will follow’. As a consequence health and wellbeing are likely to provide a focus for office refurbishments in 2017 and beyond.

In this article we’ll look at what office refurbishments practices or innovations lend themselves towards health and wellbeing in workspace design and refurbishment.

What does Health and Wellbeing Mean in Relation to Office Refurbishments?

Wellbeing in the context of the office environment is more than just having a nice office. It’s about having an environment which enables and encourages a happy, motivated, enthusiastic and productive workforce.

Thinking about the wellbeing of staff should form an integral part of any modern office design.

As staff spend the majority of their working day in the office environment it’s vital that they are able to maintain focus and productivity.

So how can an office refurbishment affect health and wellbeing? Below are a few of the many ways that an office can be refurbished to improve the health and wellbeing of its staff.

Keep Moving

The Get Britain Standing website shows that people, on average, spend 8.9 hours each day sitting in the office. For most people, that’s longer than they sleep. Recent research shows evidence that sitting for longer than 4 hours a day can lead to: reduced metabolism, disrupted sugar levels and increased insulin and blood pressure levels which in turn leads to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, depression as well as back pain and muscular problems, irrespective of your level of physical activity!

In order to encourage staff to “keep moving” their office environment needs to allow them to move around (clearly sitting still in front of a PC/MAC for long periods of time isn’t ideal, moving rather than being sedentary, helps keep the body active and alert).

By having multiple areas staff can work from including office desks, work stations, break out areas that can be used for work, staff interaction or relaxing you can encourage staff to stay active throughout the work day.

Think Tech

There have been rapid advances in technology over the past few years and it has become an accepted part of our everyday life. Understandably, as technology has moved forward in our day to day lives, so to it is now playing a much bigger role in our office life.

Less than 10 years ago, technology costs represented only around 5% of a company’s interior construction budget. Now, technology can take up as much as 25% or more of a total refurbishment cost.

Offering flexible working and the ability to move around the office can help improve productivity as office staff aren’t “chained” to a desk and can work from multiple locations, including working remotely, on the move or from home. In order to achieve this office layouts and connectivity need to allow staff to work seamlessly and where environments and systems are configured for mobile devices.

Changing Office Space

Over the years office space has changed beyond all recognition in the space of a couple of decades and evolved to meet new ways of working. In the past rows and rows of desks were the norm. This then moved to more modular setups and personal space to open plan offices to today when office layouts can be very flexible with hot desking, pods and break out areas.

To facilitate teamwork and more collaborative working the move towards two or more person desks and work areas are becoming more popular. However it’s important to strike a balance between areas that allow staff to work alone as well as in collaboration with other members of staff.

It’s also important to build in flexibility. Office areas need to be easily adaptable to suit office requirements. The use of sliding, folding and demountable partitions, along with modular seating, modular desks and break out areas which can be used for multiple purposes can help provide the ability to meet changing office needs.

When it comes to planning your office design digital rendering can play a major role in ensuring you have the right layout by showing you exactly how your workplace will look once your office refurbishment is complete. Not only can digital rendering highlight any potential issues but it will also keep your development on budget and on track.

Bring the Outside Inside

According to Harvard biologist, E. O. Wilson, human beings are biologically drawn to nature. We are hard-wired to prefer and perform better in natural settings, yet we spend, on average, 80 – 90% of our time indoors in built environments that have little or no relationship to nature which are not generally designed on natural principles.

This is borne out by research which shows that exposure to natural light, being able to view the outdoors from within an office, including plants in office design which can help increase the humidity (making it a more comfortable environment) and when building and refurbishment encompasses a connection to nature, health and wellbeing can be greatly improved.  Incorporating direct or indirect elements of nature into the built environment has been demonstrated to reduce stress, blood pressure levels and heart rates, whilst increasing productivity and creativity. The presence of natural elements can also have a significant impact on the creativity and productivity of staff.

This type of design, where an office space or refurbishment incorporates direct or indirect elements of nature into the built environment is known as “Biophilic design” (love of nature).

Many businesses are coming to recognise the importance of Biophilic design and they are beginning to incorporate it into their offices. One of many examples are the offices of the smoothie makers Innocent, based in London.

The ground floor of Innocent’s Kensal Rise, called Fruit Towers, is an open plan office area which is carpeted with fake grass. A large picnic area and a testing room sit behind glass patio doors. A red telephone box and a giant leaver at the exit which is labelled ‘last leaver pull the leaver’ to power down the whole building incorporates a fun element! The offices are spread over two floors, a lower floor and a mezzanine level above. On the mezzanine level, the meeting rooms are all named after different vegetables and on the top floor there is a diner-style meeting room and a terrace which has an impressive outside view.

As the World Health Organisation believes stress related illnesses and cardio-vascular disease are likely to be the two largest contributors to ill-health by 2020. Biophilic design may be one way forward.

Use Natural Light Wherever Possible

We’ve written about this before but it’s worth mentioning again. Natural light plays a very important role in health and wellbeing so it’s important to use keep as much natural light wherever you can and to supplement it with LED lighting where required.

Babs from JBH says “Natural light is very important when creating a stress-free office environment. It can not only make you feel happier, but also make you healthier. If there is not a lot of natural light available in your office we can provide and installed recessed LED lighting into a suspended ceiling.”

This is backed up by Mental Health Research UK (MHRUK) who estimate that 1 million working hours are lost each year due to seasonal affective (SAD), or winter depression. Dr Laura Davidson says “Employers and educational establishments need to take on board just how important natural light is to good mental health. They have a responsibility to ensure that work and study environments have sufficient windows to flood the building with as much natural light as possible”.

Use of Natural Materials

There is a move towards using more wood and stone as well as other ‘raw’ materials in new office refurbishments. Natural materials can have a big impact on an office refurbishment when used in flooring, doors, counter tops and office furniture etc.

Natural materials also tend to be more durable, with the right care, so are far more likely to last longer and to retain their look in the longer term.

Again this comes back to Biophilic design and is a great way of introducing materials usually associated with being outside, into your office design.


It’s a well-known fact that colour can play a major part in how we feel. In fact colour has been shown to have psychological, emotional, and physical effects on mood on a subconscious level. There is a great deal of research and information detailing the “psychology” of colour on improving health and well-being.

Some colours can have a calming effect and help you relax, other colours can be stimulating. Having the right colours around you can be an excellent way to reduce stress.

Some examples of stress reducing colours:

  • Yellow. Yellow is bright and cheerful and a great colour to lift spirits and combat stress.
  • Green. Green is restful and quiet. It soothes and diffuses anxiety.
  • Blue. Blue is tranquil and peaceful. It’s great for stress management as it encourages calmness but it can also be cold so it should be used in balance.
  • Violet. Violet is associated with serenity, peace and wisdom. Decorating a workspace with accents of violet can give your space a peaceful feeling that will help relieve stress.

Interestingly Pantone have brought out a “colour of the year 2017” called “Greenery” which it describes as “… a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive, restore and renew” which ties in with the Biophilic design concept.

To find out more about JBH Refurbishments can work with you to provide an office refurbishment which contributes to the health and well-being of your staff contact us via our contact form or call 0333 207 0339.

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