Workplace design contributions to mental health and well-being

Healthc Pap. 2011:11 Spec No:38-46. doi: 10.12927/hcpap.2011.22409.


People spend much of their waking time in their workplaces (approximately 33% on a weekly basis), which raises the possibility that the conditions they experience at work influence their health and well-being. The workplace design literature has given scant attention to mental health outcomes, instead focusing on healthy populations. Conversely, the mental health literature gives scant attention to the potential contribution of workplace design in preventing mental health problems; nor does it provide much insight into facilitating return to work. Taken together, however, the literature does suggest both lines of research and possible interventions. Existing knowledge proposes that workplace design can influence mental health via the effects of light exposure on circadian regulation, social behaviour and affect; the effects of aesthetic judgement on at-work mood and physical well-being and at-home sleep quality; access to nature and recovery from stressful experiences; and privacy regulation and stimulus control. This paper includes a short review of the literature in this area, proposals for new research directions and consideration of the implications of this information on the design choices made by business owners, designers and facility managers. Providing suitable working conditions for all employees avoids stigmatizing employees who have mental health problems, while facilitating prevention and return to work among those who do.

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Humans
  • Interior Design and Furnishings*
  • Lighting
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control
  • Mental Health*
  • Occupational Health
  • Privacy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Workplace*