How to Design a Perfect Contemporary Office Environment

Lucia R

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A large number of people spend a tremendous amount of time inside an office, and the design and layout can affect not only their mental health but their physical health too. Long gone are the days of grey cubicle offices, as more and more companies over the world are rethinking office designs to make their employees happier and healthier, improving their productivity in the process.
Maybe you're thinking of designing an office for your architectural firm or company, or were commissioned to design one for a client- either way, here are some useful tips to design the perfect office environment, making use of architectural solutions and interior design.


Dark spaces and harsh lights are harmful for an office atmosphere. Dingy environments correlate to seasonal depression in some individuals, and could dampen the mood of the users, causing them to stomp their productivity. Harsh artificial lights can cause migraines, sight problems and could affect the user's biological clocks thus messing with their health. How can you solve this problem?

Accent lights: Soft, indirect light can have a positive effect in an office environment- soft light not only makes the occupants feel more relaxed but still keeps them awake. Accent lighting can be hidden under the ceiling (illuminating the edges of the rooms and the middle of them), on the walls (using led technology partially hidden behind panels), or on the floor (using led floor illuminating systems that radiate soft light), and even radiating behind or under furniture and decoration pieces. Accent lights could also be used to separate rooms, for example, by making use of a separating semi-translucent wall, filled with led light that softly illuminates both spaces.

Taming lights: Natural light is the healthiest option, both for the environment and the occupants, but sometimes, depending on the latitude and orientation of the office or building, the sun that comes into the office could be too bright and direct and could cause problems (unwanted heat, extremely bright rooms). Since, we don't want to completely obscure the office's spaces and end up using harmful artificial lights, there are architectural options to get the best of the natural light and none of the problems- if you're designing a whole office building, you may think about using perforated facades that let some of the light in; there are also facade options that act like venetian blinds, adjusting to the position of the sun during the day. If you're designing a standalone office inside a building, you could make use of perforated or semi-translucent separating screens to tame the light directly in front of the windows or to separate spaces without strongly disrupting the light from one space to the other.


The right temperature can improve the occupant's wellbeing and their focus. Keep in mind the optimal thermal comfort temperature ranges from 68 to 72 °F (20 - 22 °C). To avoid overheating, you'll need to calculate the amount of heat radiated by the office's electrical appliances (lights and computers are often the biggest offenders) and the amount of people working in the office. Insulation and sun radiation control are key to keep the office you're designing inside the range of thermal comfort.

Fluid layout

Keep the layout of the office as clean as possible, avoiding maze-like ambient separators that keep light and sight obstructed, but still clearly differencing every area. Opt for semi-translucent or translucent ambient separators, to give the office a feeling of an open space but keeping it cozy, and try to use colors and textures to differentiate spaces.

Breathing Spaces

It's important to provide good "breathing" spaces where the occupants can unwind for a while and clear their minds to get back to work. These spaces don't have to be big, but they must be clearly separated from the main working area, maybe with an ambient separator or even as an independent cocooned structure inside the office.

Additional tips

Color and textures: Color can influence the mood which can affect performance. White is often regarded as the perfect color for office environments, as it's not-distracting, but it gives out a sterile feeling that can make people uneasy- make sure to create balance between the colors of walls, ceiling, floor and furniture. For instance, the harshness of white can be mitigated by the warmth of natural wood, a wooden structure can be freshened up with steel or stone accents, and a room with steel predominance can be toned down with wood. Avoid clashing colors in extended surfaces of the office, as they can be distracting and can fatigue the occupant's eyes. Keep in mind overpowering colors and textures become tiring in the long run.

Greenery: using greenery in closed spaces benefits the occupant's mood, it freshens up the air and reduces stress. If possible, make a small indoors garden; if there's no space or budget for an indoor garden, there are plenty of options such as hanging gardens, shelved gardens, terrariums and potted plants.

Do you have more ideas to improve or design an office? What are your favorite things about contemporary office design?

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Answers (1)

Karissa A, Architect • Oct 27

To add up to that, Sick Building Syndrome is an occurrence wherein building environment suffers from poor indoor air quality, thereby causing hazards to occupant health. Not only can we consider the optimal thermal temperature and the heat radiation of appliances used, we also have to take note of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by building materials such as paints, sealants and furniture as they are the largest sources of indoor air contaminants.