Office Design

6 Ways a bad office design stresses out workers

David Spence
May 22nd, 2018

Some workers may spend more time at the office than they do at their own homes. For this reason, it’s important to make sure the workplace is as comfortable as possible for employees. Because who wants to spend at least 40 hours in a place that leaves them stressed out? Everyone wants a good employee experience. Check out our resource hub to make sure you have everything you need to plan for your workplace, and read on to find out what to avoid. 

Signs of poor office design

Here’s a list of common problems that plague a poor working environment:

1. Workers can’t concentrate

Does the physical environment support the worker’s individual needs? If not, the quality of work will suffer. Placing workers who need quiet to concentrate near those who spend a lot of time conversing on the phone can be a problem. To avoid this, companies should ideally provide a number of places where workers can retreat when they need to concentrate, or adopt a mix of office design elements (an open-office layout with low partitions, for example) that can serve as a happy medium.

2. Viruses attack

Particularly relevant through the COVID-19 pandemic, without workplace distancing and other safeguards to keep employees safe, the office can be a dangerous place. See our complete COVID-19 Resource Hub for full information on steps to take.  

3. They leave with aches and pains

If the furniture isn’t comfortable and poor ergonomics reign, employees may feel the effects in their backs, necks and shoulders. Too-low computer monitors may lead to bad posture and neck strain, poorly positioned keyboards may cause carpal tunnel and wrist strain and uncomfortable chairs may contribute to a sore back. Investing in ergonomic equipment can help prevent these problems.

4. There’s no place to socialize

A quick joke or story shared between coworkers can be a simple way to left off some steam. A change of environment can add some variety into a worker’s day, and the break from their normal tasks can help them return feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of their to-do list. But if your office doesn’t have a good place where employees can talk, mingle and relax, they may be denied a good chance to de-stress.

5. Their desks are disorganized

messy disorganized desk leading to stress

When workers can’t find anything on their desk, because it’s holding everything, the effects can be…frustrating, to say the least. Nobody likes having to shovel through papers to find the latest budget report they’ll be discussing at a meeting that starts in ten minutes. While providing file cabinets is certainly one way to avoid this situation, investing in cloud storage can be an even better solution; it’s eco-friendly and requires less real estate.

6. They sit all day

A 2012 article in The Guardian reported that sitting for more than three hours a day reduces a person’s life expectancy by around two years—two years. Some companies are trying to combat the consequences of seated work by introducing wellness programs with exercise classes and equipment. If you don’t have the budget for a treadmill, however, try to encourage workers take whatever opportunity they can to move—whether that means standing up every half-hour, trading a chair for an exercise ball or taking the stairs. This activity should be an added to their regular exercise routine, because a bit of daily cardio alone won’t cancel out the harm of a sedentary lifestyle.



These pitfalls can damage employee morale and lead to sub-par work. Check your own office against the list above, and ask your co-workers what they would change about the office. With some investigation, you can make the office a much better place to be.

photo credit: Shutterstock, Eunice Lui, Rob Bye