How the design of the workplace influences well-being and productivity


Paul Pennington-Marshall

Central London Specification Team Manager at Forbo Flooring Systems


With studies suggesting that personnel costs, including salaries and benefit payments, account for approximately 90 per cent of operational costs of an office[1] – if an employee is not fit for work then this can result in lost hours, drops in productivity and the potential for falling profits. In fact, reports show that the cost of absence to the UK economy rose to £18 billion in 2017, with figures expected to rise to £21 billion in 2020. Therefore, it is little wonder that many companies recognise their responsibility to ensure a healthy and happy workplace.

There is no doubt that an office environment can affect an employee’s productivity, health and sense of wellbeing. A report highlighted by CMI Workplace indicated that strong office design in general can make employees up to 33 per cent happier at work[2]. If people are feeling happier, then the chances are they are less likely to feel stressed and anxious, and in turn this positively influences their productivity levels. Indeed, by carefully considering the various elements of the interior, specifiers and designers can help to create a better indoor office environment.

One of the main problems in any working environment is the air quality. A recent YouGov survey showed that 70% of UK office workers complain about the poor air quality within their current work environment, with 68% of those noting that they experience lapses in concentration[3]. Poor air quality can result in respiratory illnesses and other diseases; therefore, it is important that offices must do more than just open windows. Low volatile compound (VOC) materials for example, can increase productivity by as much as 11%, according to the UK Green Building Council.[4]

Another element to consider when it comes to indoor air quality is airborne allergens. The UK is one of the top three countries with the highest instances of allergy, with over 21 million UK adults said to suffer from some kind of allergic reaction[5]. In terms of flooring, choosing a flocked floor covering such as Forbo’s Flotex or Marmoleum linoleum flooring are ideal choices as they are both Allergy UK approved, meaning that they don’t harbour dust mites or allergens, contributing to creating better indoor office environments.

Acoustic performance is another factor that needs to be addressed in the design of an office environment – after all, employees need to be able to think, hear, speak and retain vital information without causing distraction and being distracted. A typical UK office generates sound levels of 54 A-weighted decibels or more, which is above the recommended 45dB (A)[6], so using materials that absorb sound and safeguard the health of employee’s are ideal. In the longer term, this can prevent the high costs of absenteeism of employees or productivity losses. Tessera carpet tiles and Flotex flocked flooring, for example, reduce walking noise in a neighbouring room by up to 10dB.

The temperature of the office also plays a critical role in workplace comfort and productivity. People perceive thermal internal climate differently, therefore an agreeable temperature can certainly improve concentration. Thermostatic controls, cooling systems, and measures to promote individual controllability are all ways that can be incorporated into different rooms within an office, to ensure that employees feel comfortable.

It will come as no surprise that daylight and good lighting can also help employees to relax. Well lit spaces with large windows enable a connection with nature and the great outdoors, enhancing productivity and overall mood. And in terms of floor coverings, consideration of their LRVs are extremely important as choosing floor coverings with high LRVs means that more light can be reflected into the room, which can enhance alertness and productivity, whilst reducing energy consumption.

While office trends come and go, one factor that does not change is the impact that the office environment has on employee productivity and wellbeing. Designing an environment that takes into consideration various factors can positively impact absenteeism. By working together with a reputable and knowledgeable manufacturer like Forbo, specifiers and designers can select the most suitable interior materials that can improve an office space and create healthier indoor environments.

For more information on Forbo’s work in the office sector please visit or to download Forbo’s full office white paper click here.