ergonomic office design
3 July, 2024
Enhancing employee wellbeing through ergonomic office design
Supporting and enhancing employee wellbeing in the workplace has become a key focus for many businesses seeking both to do the right thing by their people and by their organisation.

A well team is a happier, healthier more productive team. Therefore, as we seek to give people incentives to spend more time in the office than at home, rather than mandating the issue, wellness has risen to the top of the agenda in organisations seeking not only to attract top talent, but to keep, nature and maximise it as well.

So where does ergonomic office design come in and what is it?

What is ergonomic design?

Ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment, and as a result ergonomic design is a discipline that focuses on designing products and environments that are comfortable, efficient and safe for people to use.  A multidisciplinary field, ergonomic design draws on a wide range of skills, including engineering, psychology and physiology, all seeking to enhance the way we interact with our environments.

The BBC sums it up, saying: “Ergonomics is a consideration that leads to a product being designed in a way to make it easy to use. Size, weight, shape, position of buttons and controls are all aspects that contribute to it being ergonomically designed.”

ergonomic office design

What is ergonomic office design?

With that definition in mind, it naturally follows that ergonomic office design is the practice of designing a workplace to meet employee needs – something which can be done on a general level, but that’s also personal.

By designing products, workspaces, and environments to fit the physical and mental needs of individuals within the team, the goal is to make people comfortable in the workplace so they can focus and achieve to the best of their ability.

As we have shifted culturally to a greater understanding of productivity in the workplace, ergonomic design has also come to be connected with employee wellbeing. We now have an understanding that productivity and workplace satisfaction is inextricably linked to feeling well and having a great workplace experience. That capability is not a mere nice-to-have but a need-to-have for competitive businesses that want to thrive.

Science Direct notes the individual as well as general nature of ergonomic workplace design, writing: “Successful ergonomic design of the workstation in the office is a holistic task, because all the interrelated parts of our workstation environment need to be considered as working together to form the station. Work tasks, work movements, and work activities interact with each other. They affect and are influenced by the workstation components, furniture, and other equipment and by the environment. All of these in turn must “fit” the individual to support his or her wellbeing and contribute to work output.”

What are the benefits of ergonomic office design?

There are lots of benefits to ergonomic office design. On a general note, it is a significant contributor to employee health and happiness, and as a result it enhances productivity.

Benefits include but are not limited to:

  • Reducing work-related injuries
  • Reduce employee stress levels and physical tension
  • Promotes good posture, reduction of repetitive motion and strain on muscles
  • More sustainable employees
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • A greater sense of job satisfaction
  • Improved workplace morale
  • Employees feel more valued
  • More engaged employees
ergonomic office design

Key features of ergonomic design

The possibilities for ergonomic design can cover all aspects of the working environment, can be specific to different individuals and organisations, and can become as intricate as you like, ranging from the fonts on signage to the shape of your office chairs, the quality of your lighting to the size of the buttons in the elevator.

Equally, building adaptability into features and spaces (such as localised lighting control), can make a powerful difference to individuals, particularly where specific tasks, disability or neurodiversity is concerned.

However, there are some key areas of focus that help to create a happier, healthier and more productive workplace.

Key areas of focus include:

  • Comfort
  • Convenience
  • Ease of use
  • Safety
  • Aesthetics

These areas should be considered from a physical, cognitive, and organisational perspective.

Within these, key features include (but are not limited to):

  • Lighting
  • Workstation design
  • Ventilation
  • Seating design
  • Temperature control
  • Flooring
  • Colour choices
  • Sound quality

For example, you might have height adjustable chairs, computer monitors with filtered screens to prevent glare, keyboard and mouse supports to reduce repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, and so forth.

ergonomic office design

Examples of ergonomic design in action

At Maris, ergonomic design is an integral part of what we aim to deliver as standard for our clients, always incorporating it into our designs. However, there are some employers who want to make it a more significant focus, here are a few examples:

Technical excellence 

At tech leader, Datatonic, creating an environment that supported team wellbeing was an essential part of their vision for a thriving organisation. For example, a favourite feature was our introduction of a winter garden. As the office has no outside space, we wanted to add to the sense of wellbeing and the chance for individuals to really appreciate the view of the city outside. The winter garden is delineated by plant life in raised planters that double as lockers, and features furniture chosen for its ergonomic lines. There are even sun loungers oriented towards the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Desk space support

For debt management leaders, Lowell UK Shared Services, team wellbeing was paramount, understanding that they often experience high levels of stress taking calls from distressed individuals. Alongside dedicated staff spaces for wellbeing, the desk spaces themselves, while functional hinged on ergonomic features, and surrounded them with areas to visit for a moment of quiet. 

Designing for individuals

Gaming juggernaut, Sharkmob has an all-hands-on-deck approach and they’re very inclusive, so we designed their London office space to be highly agile with a significant focus on neurodiversity. It was important that alongside the style, that spaces were designed for a neurodiverse workforce. For example, it was important that staff members had the ability to control light intensity in their workspaces, close the blinds and adjust their own surroundings to meet their needs.

Want to enhance workplace wellbeing with ergonomic design?

Speak to the team at Maris