Designing for health: strategies for enhancing employee health by workplace design

S.E. Colenberg, T.E. Jylhä

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Purpose: Health has taken a leading role in office design and investments. In the knowledge-intensive world, employees are acknowledged to be organisations’ most important asset, their health and well-being is an important investment in the current office market. In this paper, the purpose is to identify different design strategies for creating healthy workplaces to give direction to design and future research in this rapidly expanding area.Theory: Workplace design is able to harm or support health in different ways. For instance, exposure to toxic emissions, loud noise and daylight directly affect physical health. Mental health is affected by work environments causing or buffering stress, or by constraining or fulfilling basic human needs. Psychological theories of arousal, environmental load and stress explain how the amount and appraisal of stimuli affect wellbeing. An imbalance between demands imposed and resources offered by the working environment can cause burnout. Indirectly, the office space design could influence health by nudging healthy behaviour. Design/methodology/approach: A literature review was conducted to deduct design strategies for health from existing research on health effects of workplace design. Academic search engines were used to find peer-reviewed papers that measured the relationship between features of interior office space, and health conditions or healthy behaviour of the office workers. From the initial database of 2816 papers, 59 were included for further analysis.Findings: Related to interior office space, three design strategies for employee health were identified. The most traditional strategy, designing for comfort, aims to create a comfortable environment by fulfilling the bodily and psychological needs of the users, and preventing harm, stress, and frustration. Designing for revitalization aims to decrease office workers’ stress by offering an environment that supports physical recovery and renewal of psychological resources. Designing for healthy behaviour aims at stimulating physical activity, healthy nutrition, or relaxing activities.Originality/value: This research contributes to a nuanced and positive perspective on healthy offices. By identifying strategies for prevention of harm as well as strategies for creating positive influences, it reveals promising directions for further research and salutogenic design. By outlining existing empirical research it provides a foundation for evidence-based workplace design within the different design strategies
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Transdisciplinary Workplace Research (TWR) Conference 2020
Subtitle of host publicationFuture Workspaces
EditorsA. Kämpf-Dern, M. Will-Zocholl
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-00-066044-3
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventTWR 2020 : Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference -
Duration: 17 Sep 202018 Sep 2020


ConferenceTWR 2020 : Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference


  • Workplace design
  • office
  • health
  • wellbeing
  • design strategy

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