Explore the latest projects from the UK’s commercial interiors industry, featuring the best of workspace, hospitality, residential and public sectors.

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The impact of design on health and wellbeing

Wellbeing makes up a fundamental part of any office design – if a basic level of wellbeing is not being achieved, then the design is underperforming. Over the next few years, wellbeing is expected to continue to become more and more embedded in our working lives. Oktra’s Nic Pryke tells us more.

04/09/2019 3 min read

We are very excited to have recently signed the lease for our new office, sparking change throughout the company once again. The new design will address wellbeing as a top priority and we will implement the WELL building and Fitwel standards, as we fully intend to achieve these accreditations. 

Another major development in the new office will be the integration of digital technology sensors to help us enhance our wellbeing and performance. These will monitor a number of different aspects around the office: 

1. Heat – a heat map will be displayed in real time electronically around the office.

2. Air quality, particularly CO2 – we already monitor this in our current office but the new office will give us more opportunity to intervene and negotiate with the landlord. Excessive CO2 levels can have a negative impact on cognitive function.

3. Occupancy levels – this electronic map will show which desks are available or occupied. Monitors around the office will show a combined occupancy plan and digital heat map, enabling people to select their desk or worksetting for the day based on temperature and colour coded occupancy. 

The purpose of monitoring these features is to hone the office’s functionality and make it respond to the way we are using it.

Two of the most important influences of wellbeing are lighting and light. Undoubtedly our connection to our surroundings and the earth itself can influence our behavioural patterns and mood. Most people typically spend between seven and 12 hours indoors working each day and this can have significant repercussions on wellbeing if the right environment is not present. We are naturally and subliminally tuned into the earth’s cycle and respond to the way the sun is affecting the earth. When you’re in an office all day, you can miss out on the sun’s path, which can result in effects similar to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Our body clock responds to disruptions in the natural cycle of light, impacting both mood and productivity. The good news is that technology is adapting quickly to eliminate these negative effects, with more companies investing in modifying their products to provide a healthier user experience. For example, most phone and tablet screens now adjust their screen brightness and colour in relation to the time of day.

More modern and wellbeing-focused offices, like Gymshark HQ, created by Oktra, will invest in adaptable, human-centric lighting systems that mimic the sun’s natural cycle. This can help with SAD effects and will also provide a cost-effective solution to energy waste, as the system identifies patterns of where activity usually takes place and focuses the light in these areas. Similarly, our new office features a lower ground floor level, which has no windows or access to natural light. This is a great opportunity for us to engage with advanced tech that is centred around wellbeing; we want to construct false windows, complete with the natural light cycle and even a view of our choosing. With this equipment we can create an accurate illusion of daylight so that people are unaware that it is an imitation. 

Research has identified positive brain reactions to blue light, which makes us more alert and productive. If we can maximise the hours of blue light through technology, we can impact work patterns and rest time, which are connected to wellbeing.

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