In 2020, most office design projects got on hold due to uncertainties related to COVID-19. COVID-19 displayed working from home is possible resulting for most companies to decide to work half of the time from home permanently. This results into a smaller office building, raising questions about what the office building should facilitate. Working from home works rather good, but most of us also experienced it is difficult to feel connected and it might be boring to work all day from home for months. How do you make sure you get a maximum performance out of the home office? And what to do with the office building itself?



There are three major themes of attention when it comes to nowadays work spaces. If you want to make the right decisions when it comes to the performance and engagement of employees, these three themes should be taken into account when making decisions about the office.


First of all, a company should decide if it wants employees to be satisfied. If the answer is 'yes', it is worth to continue reading this article. In case of doubt: happy employees perform 37% better and sell 31% more compared to companies with unhappy employees (2015). This sounds unreal but it makes sense. One aspect is that happy employees are less likely to show job withdrawal like absenteeism, turnover, job burnout, and retaliatory behaviors, making them perform and sell more. And in case an employer doesn't pursue happiness, society should want people to be happy, since happiness also positively affects general health (2015).


Sitting is a huge cause of unnatural death in modern society. Although science thought many modern diseases were mainly related to smoking, alcohol and bad consumption, scientists found new evidence 'sitting' itself also has a major contribution to it. People who move less than 30 minutes a day are 49% likely to die from an unnatural death (2012), have 112% more chance to get Diabetes 2, 147% more likely to get a cardiovascular disease and 90% more likely to die from that (2012).


You have a sedentary lifestyle when you move less than 30 minutes a day, less than 5 times a week. When you have an office job, you are likely to sit for 11,3 hours a day (2013). This includes the time you sit before and after working hours. The time you sit when you commute, have breakfast and dinner and when you're at home watching TV. When you go to the office, you can get your exercise from going to work by bike. But when you work from home, you are even less likely to get your 30 minutes of movement.


Apart from long term diseases, sitting also has a short-term impact. When people sit for a long time, their cartilage gets less nutrition: increasing the probability to get arthrosis. Using a desk chair with back support also makes your lower back carry less of your weight, decreasing strength of your core. Emotionally, sitting for a long time enhances negative feelings whereas muscle activity activates endorphin production and full body activity is perceived by the brain as being emotionally happy (2013).



There are many calculations done to grasp the costs of work related stress. In 2018, Dutch research entity TNO calculated stress related absenteeism costs Dutch firms 2.8 billion Euros (TNO, 2018). In the European Union, the costs of work-related depression alone was more than 617 billion Euros (EU, 2014). These costs are divided by absenteeism (272 billion EUR), loss of productivity (242 billion EUR), health care (63 billion EUR) and welfare (39 billion EUR). Work related stress is caused when people experience high demand to deliver and feel they have little control on meeting that demand. Providing the ability to execute tasks and the ability to be realistic about deliverables is the most important leadership skill to fight stress. But there are also other stressors.


People using mainly digital devices to communicate at work are twice as likely to get sick from stress. It is important when you shift to working from home partly, people are minimizing the use of video calls, emails and phones.

Movement increases resilience to stress. When people have an active lifestyle, they train their bodies to deal with stress. People with an active lifestyle might experience the same amount of stress, but are quicker with getting back to a non-stressful state of mind.

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Awareness on stress increases your resilience to cope better with it. When people know what they feel when they are stressed and what causes stress to them, they recover quicker when they experience stress. Providing insight to stress and customizing the workflow is a big promise for stress reduction at work (


In 2018 neuroscientists Reeve and Lee published an article about basic psychological needs. They describe autonomy, relatedness and competence to be the three elements which need to be present in once life to have positive well-being and satisfaction (2018). What does an office look like when you design it based on these three pillars?


People feel competent when there is a need of their expertise. People like to challenge themselves, learn new skills and advise others on themes they master. During lock down, people experienced working from home makes it more difficult to feel inspired by spontaneous interactions with fellow colleagues, peers or suppliers. Co-working spaces, digital communication and offices can be designed to facilitate 'competence'.


Autonomy at work is having the ability to make your own decisions. Depending on what type of company you work for, autonomy can be experienced in different ways. People working for +100 employee companies and who aren't part of management team might experience less autonomy at work compared to people working for startups or small firms. For larger employee companies you can supply autonomy by letting employees decide themselves from where they work.


The last element a person needs to feel satisfied is relatedness. A person should feel part of a larger community. Work has the possibility to supply this feeling. The home office is good for people who live with their family. Working from home increases private relations. But the home office does not provide relatedness with colleagues. Physical ability to meet peers at work is essential, especially for singles and starters who didn't have time to build up a relation with the company yet. To the majority of employees, a shared physical workspace will increase satisfaction.


In 1949 Hebb discovered with medicine experiments on rodents the physical enclose they are in during the tests cause bias to the testing results. During the experiment one group of mice was placed inside a regular hamster cage with several floors, sawdust, a treadmill and some ropes and tubes (enriched cage) whereas regularly research mice were placed in empty drawer-like cages (deprived cage).


The mice in the enriched cage became 1,5 times older, had a higher resilience, less mice got sick and when mice got sick in the enriched cage, they recovered quicker compared to mice of the same virus / medicine group who lived in the deprived cage. The mice got healthier from the enriched cage because they stimulated their brains in various ways, making them have more neuro pathways and have more active brain areas.

The five information paths the human body developed to perceive an environment are:


1. Visual - all information which helps you to orient yourself and make a mind-map and non-inclusive motions. Non-inclusive motions are moving elements which do not require your activation, which move repetitive, are ever-changing and predictable. Examples are clouds, leaves of a tree moving in the wind, people on the street, camp fire etc.

2. Motor - all information you receive by your muscles. Movements but also balancing, gravity and carrying weight on your body.

3. Somatosensory - everything you feel with your skin like temperature, humidity, light, pressure, textures and also what you detect chemically like scents and flavors.

4. Cognition - all information that is part or contributing to learning curvatures and decision making. Like reading body language, feeling challenged, developing skills and playing a music instrument.

5. Circadian Rhythms - synchronizing your activities with your personal bio rhythms. There are three biorhythm discovered up to today: light, nutrition and social interaction. All three are having a biological clock.

Environmental Enrichment is also known to humans. Being locked up in prison can lower your IQ after 3 month and Environmental Enrichment (EE) is already applied for Alzheimer patients and people suffering from Huntington disease. During long and strict lock downs, many of us experienced what it does to our mood when we have little stimuli and low variety of environments. This is an extreme experience of the influence a deprived environment has to us. Enrichers did an experiment for Netherlands Railways (NS) in 2017 by comparing what influence active sitting has to travelers their mood. We saw people who sit actively on moving surfaces got a significant increase to positive emotions.