Design workspaces with employee health and safety in mind

December 1, 2023

Whether you’re a business owner or manager, employee well-being and safety should be at the top of your priority list. You might have safety strategies and health practices in place designed to keep your employees happy and healthy, but you could be overlooking something as simple and effective as the overall design of your workplace.

Workplace design can play a big role in enhancing employee safety and well-being. The right design plan can not only implement a safer work environment, but it can have a positive impact on employee morale, productivity, and the overall success of your agency.

You don’t need a background in design to make an influence. Simple changes and swaps can make a big difference, and you can start implementing some of these design practices right away.

Simple safety solutions

The safety strategies you have in place should be specific to your business and the needs of your employees. For example, if a business with an area with heavy machinery is going to have different safety procedures than a business that is mostly office work.

One of the easiest ways to improve safety, no matter what type of industry you’re in, is to fight back against optimism bias. It’s not uncommon for people in the workplace to feel like nothing bad will happen to them. Maybe they’ve been at the job a long time and they think they know the risks. Or, maybe they just want to assume the best so they aren’t as cautious as they should be. That kind of optimism bias can be dangerous and lead to harmful accidents. Some of the best ways to combat those thoughts include:

  • ensure proper signage is highly visible
  • post multiple warnings in dangerous areas
  • ensure consistent messaging across all signage and internal branding
  • blend signage with training
  • offer ongoing training

Additionally, make sure your overall workspace design is safe and accessible for all your employees. Assess some of the risks your employees might face daily, including physical, biological, and chemical factors. For example, do you have proper storage solutions for potentially harmful chemicals? If not, your employees could be at risk of being exposed to something toxic. Is your building accessible for those with mobility issues? Do you have a human-centered design? Don’t be afraid to ask your employees and your shareholders what they think about your workspace and how it could be improved to promote safety.

Focus on health

If you’re already focusing on the safety of your employees, make sure you’re not ignoring their physical and mental well-being, too. Employee stress can lead to a lack of productivity and negatively impact the overall success of your business. More importantly, it can create a toxic, unhealthy work environment that can increase turnover and reduce employee retention. Anxiety and workplace burnout are real, and adopting a positive mental health movement in your workplace, starting with the design, can make a big difference.

So, how can the design of your workspace impact employee health? For starters, consider the lighting and color of your workspace. Research has shown a direct correlation between natural light and productivity. Certain colors also can inspire employees to be more productive while boosting energy and mood. Making simple lighting and color changes can make a big difference in the overall feel of your workspace and give your employees a mental boost.

From a physical standpoint, consider how you can make your space both accessible and comfortable for your team. If you work in an office setting, something as simple as providing ergonomic chairs and desks can help alleviate some of the common issues associated with sitting all day, including back pain and sore shoulders.

Promoting healthy practices also is a great way to keep employee health in mind. Create common areas where your team can enjoy healthy snacks, or have a few “quiet rooms” where people can go to decompress or meditate while on a break. Speaking of breaks—encourage them! Give your team members something to do while they’re away from their desks, like creating walking paths outside of the building or a game room for people to interact and build connections.

As you can see, the workspace has a lot more to do with health and safety than you might have realized. Thankfully, by making a few changes with the well-being of your employees in mind, you can improve your overall workplace environment and improve employee satisfaction while giving your business a boost.

Katie Brenneman

Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. When she isn't writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.

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