Workforce & Workplace
Happiness by Design: Office Designs that Increase Employee Happiness
Mark Bickford
Mark Bickford
Corporate Services
Sodexo North America

The marketplace is flooded with articles, books and even phone apps trying to solve the question of what makes people happy. While happiness may seem like an esoteric concept, its origins are now being broken down to a science. Similarly, when it comes to employee engagement, figuring out what it takes to create a work place where employees are happy (and therefore more productive) has become a scientific pursuit of trying to find the right solutions. However, research shows that even with all the time, effort and dollars companies have spent to address employee engagement, the overall rates of employee satisfaction and happiness are still less than desirable.

Despite research showing that physical environment is the most significant factor in an employee’s ability to focus and that a well-designed office can increase productivity by 20 percent, office design is only now being considered a promising solution to positively impacting employee engagement and performance. It’s one that Sodexo has been touting for years in our annual Work Place Trends report.

Forget the dull, lifeless office spaces of the past with bad lighting, cramped cubicles, closed off offices and dreary paint. A new holistic, sensory-driven experience can be created providing employees comfortable, healthy spaces which motivate, inspire and increase productivity.

Here are just a few design elements that can help to create a happy work place:

  • Different Spaces: open and enclosed spaces, multilevel offices, lounges and soft seating areas, conference rooms and break rooms
  • Lighting: Bad lighting can cause fatigue, eyestrain, headaches and overall irritability. Consider using natural light bulbs or a light therapy device
  • Room Color: The colors around us have an effect on our moods and brain function. Blue has been said to elicit productivity
  • Room Temperature: 65-68 Fahrenheit is the average temp. of an office, but warmer rooms make people more productive

There are even more design elements for a company to consider.  While some of these solutions appear simple, it’s more than just a few tweaks here and there – adjusting a thermostat or installing new light bulbs  — but implementing  well thought out, comprehensive design that will provide the desired end result – a happy worker. Office design is the foundation which can create a company that employees are excited about coming to every day.

Join the discussion! What elements do you implement in your office to create a more enjoyable environment?


Mark Bickford is President of Corporate Services for Sodexo North America and a strong advocate for the new performance frontier: Quality of Life. Mr. Bickford believes there is a direct link between enhanced Quality of Life and better individual, organization and community performance. 

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