As governments and public health authorities see the true public cost of health issues such as obesity, smoking and alcohol abuse, legislation is being implemented to counteract the negative outcomes of unhealthy habits. Now, the private and public sector are following suit, making positive changes for their employees on both a physiological and psychological level. The way forward is open to interpretation, using the insight of awareness design as a potential roadmap.

This new corporate perspective looks beyond that of physical ergonomics and examines areas such as how design can make spaces more or less stressful to be in, as failing in this area may lead to physical symptoms and thus also incur economic losses on all parts. For instance, studies in Scandinavia, have linked the office environment to physical ailments, measured by the number of sick leave days registered by companies and industries in a variety of areas. The psychological aspects of workplace provision could well be more important than the physiological ones to a greater degree than we could have imagined. But how do we create a workplace from a psychological perspective? For example, what do we need to really focus on in terms of visual and acoustic privacy?

"The more we give people choice and the better that varity is, the more organically people will find their way to perform."

Louis Lhoest, Partner, Veldhoen + Company

To answer these questions, research is being conducted to investigate how much distraction people can cope with in order to be productive, and how elements such as light and the proximity of people influences effectiveness. The field of proxemics, in particular, is being studied to fully understand how we act and react to objects and people in our surrounding space. Ever since the “Effect of the self-schema on perception of space at work” was published, linking design and psychology in the workplace to each other, proposing a theoretical model connecting environmental perception, work satisfaction and sense of self – design thinking has sprouted from this growing ground for a more psychologically sound workplace.

Overall, design for reinforcing identity and self-esteem, as well as enhancing belonging and association with the organisation, will be implemented in the future. Psychological ergonomics are a new frontier of workplace design, and recognising and caring for the different kinds of minds in the workplace is proving to be a successful strategy for well-being.

This article has been taken from the Kinnarps Trend Report 2015. Click here to download the full research paper.