WELLNESS in the workplace

ross mcleod


In recent years a deeper understanding of the sedentary and stressful nature of modern office workplaces has led to a growing awareness of the need to balance the physical and psychological aspects of the demands of contemporary culture. This realisation of the potential negative effects of our affluent western lifestyle has seen the rise in the need to address issues of ‘wellness’ in our everyday working lives. The appreciation of the benefits of providing healthy workplaces has grown into a global industry that has been embraced by healthcare professionals, the management of organisations and the design community.

In 2015 Dylan Martyn from Haworth extended an invitation to a number of design schools in Australia and New Zealand to participate in an experimental initiative. The “Wellness in the Workplace” competition invited students to engage in the real-world problems around wellness which the workplace design industry is facing and asked them to co-create solutions which could potentially help shape the next generation of work environments. In answer to this call RMIT Interior Design put together a small team of twelve students to engage in the design research project with Haworth Furniture and to propose innovative design approaches for wellness centred workplaces.

In order to undertake this task the students (working in groups of two) analysed the issue surrounding “Wellness in the Workplace” and proposed concepts for the design of products for the Haworth range that addressed these issues. Referencing the Delos Well-Building Standard (which seeks to harness the built environment as a vehicle to support human health and well-being) the students considered how issues related to the mind, comfort, fitness, light, nourishment, water and air can be integrated into the design of office furniture systems.

In doing this the students were asked to consider:

  • What makes an office environment unhealthy?
  • What are the psychological issues that promote wellness?
  • What are the physical qualities of a space that a designer can manipulate to encourage wellness?
  • How can systems be developed that augment people’s commitment to their environment, to each other and to themselves?
  • How can an individual’s connection to the office environment and a sustainable lifestyle (which is good for the person and the planet) be promoted?
  • How can design encourage new behaviours in the workplace?
  • How can the integration of physical products with developing digital technologies and interfaces liberate the nature of contemporary office scenarios?

In answering these questions the students developed design responses that would positively affect issues of communication, collaboration, flexibility, mobility, posture, sustainability and biophillia.



SYNC - CASUAL OFFICE SYSTEM - Kyle Jianyu Chen + Tim Cong Zhu



ATTITUDE - SOFT ERGONOMIC DESK - Chloe Yongyou Zhu + Rochelle Yanni Guo



TOO GATHER- FLEXIBLE MEETING SYSTEM - Monika Niceska + Sarah Andersson



Kyle Jianyu Chen, Tim Cong Zhu, Chloe Yongyou Zhu, Rochelle Yanni Guo, Monika Niceska, Sarah Andersson, Lesley Lijuan Xu, Jessica  Cotton, Casey Wen Ling Yong, Jessica Chai Jie Ling, Matthew Phillips, Kirby Humphries