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Architecture and Wellbeing

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Monday of this week (January 21) has been dubbed ‘the most depressing day of the year’. Blue Monday falls on the third Monday of January and is the perfect opportunity to raise the issue of mental wellbeing in the industry.

Construction workers are particularly vulnerable to feeling down after Christmas, long, dark and cold days certainly take their toll. The mental health and wellbeing of workers are a high priority, especially recently, with a number of initiatives in place and organisations starting to take it more seriously.

As an industry responsible for the construction of buildings and offices, we can also make a change and improve the working environments for others.  Almost three-quarters (74%) of UK employees believe that their work environment supports their physical wellbeing. While this is a very encouraging statistic, it still means that more than one in four UK office workers suffer in unhealthy environments. The Wellbeing at Work Study paid particular attention to the concerns of those who are unhappy with their workplace to reveal the biggest pitfalls to avoid.

From a design point of view, over a quarter of UK employees find the acoustics of their office unpleasant & three-quarters of those blamed it on a noisy open plan environment. A further quarter (27%) are frustrated by a lack of privacy. Of the quarter who state their office does not encourage them to move around, three-quarters (72%) blame the awkward design of their workplace. A lot of the complaints regarding office design came from lack of colour (80%) and greenery (64%).

The results show the impact that small changes can have on employee wellbeing and the boost that can be received from a splash of colour or the introduction of some greenery. However, design considerations now go way beyond aesthetics and the understanding of what makes a healthy architecture has changed radically. What used to be about hygiene and health is now more about psychological wellbeing. I don’t think there’s a question of whether architecture affects our health and wellbeing, it’s more about how much it does.

We have all heard the statistics: one in four people will suffer from mental health problems. However, the reality is that everyone will at some point see their mental health take a dip, so it would be more accurate to say that everybody at some point will suffer from mental health problems. Ignoring this fact can lead to high turnover of staff, loss of expertise, a demotivated workforce and more severe cases. If we can make somebody’s life easier, whether that’s support in work, the décor of an office or the design of the building, then why wouldn’t we? We’re the only industry that can have an impact on the design of the building, so I think we need to take our role and responsibility seriously.


For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk

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