28th Feb 2023

Create a Thriving Workplace: Design Your Office to Meet Emotional Needs

Posted in:

If you walk into a drab and lifeless office, how does it make you feel? Probably a bit drab and lifeless… On the flip side, if you walk into an office that’s had a lot of thought put into things like the décor and layout to create an uplifting, inspiring and motivational feel, how do you feel then?

It’s pretty clear from picturing these scenarios in your mind, that office design has an emotional impact on the people that work there.

Once you understand what people want and need from their office, you can make decisions that’ll deliver. In turn, you can design your space to improve the emotional wellbeing, comfort and social support that your workplace provides. Or in other words, meet your team’s emotional needs.

Why design for emotional needs?

The quick answer? So that your teams feel mentally well and live healthy, fulfilling lives.

That’s according to the Human Givens approach, a holistic and practical framework for understanding human needs and behaviour. Their research suggests that humans are born with a set of nine innate emotional needs that must be satisfied if we’re to feel emotionally well.

According to Human Givens, every human’s 9 fundamental emotional needs are:

  • Security – a safe environment which allows us to develop fully
  • Attention – giving as well as receiving it
  • Control – having a sense of autonomy and control
  • Community – feeling connected to a wider community
  • Intimacy – somebody who accepts us for who we are
  • Status – a sense of status within social groupings
  • Achievement – a sense of our competence and abilities
  • Privacy – the opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
  • Meaning and purpose

Reading these, you can see how elements of your workplace can help or hinder the way you feel.

In this article, we give you a list of things to consider if you want to design an office that makes people feel happier and healthier. And at a time when a lot of employers are struggling to get teams back together – focusing more on emotional needs will help ensure teams are much more inclined to come to the office.

Comfortable and flexible furniture

Furniture plays a huge part in providing comfort and support at work, but it can also meet the ‘control’ and ‘privacy’ human needs. For example, you can introduce meeting pods as an enclosed space to work individually or as a group, creating a sense of privacy that also supports concentration and focus.

When it comes to giving control, provide your team with comfortable and ergonomic furniture that can be adapted and moved when needed. Taking control of your own set up is empowering, but on the flip side, there’s nothing worse than being uncomfortable when there’s nothing you can do about it!

Green spaces

Research shows that greener spaces reduce stress, improve mood and increase people’s overall sense of wellbeing. So add plants and other forms of biophilic greenery to create a calming and grounding effect.

Privacy is a key emotional need, and believe it or not, you can use clever planting to achieve this. Use plants as screening around desk areas that look nice and absorb sound too. If you can, provide outdoor space for people to use for a moment of quiet when needed, or to enjoy over their lunch break. This also caters to the ‘community’ emotional need by giving more communal space to socialise in.

Workspace personalisation

Allow your team to customise their workspaces for an increased sense of control and security. It could be something as simple as adding personal photos or decorations, to choosing the colour of their office chair or having their own mug.

In a broader sense, introducing your logo and brand colours into your overall office design makes people feel like they’re part of a community when they come to work. Of course, your workplace culture has to back this up too!

Collaborative spaces

Creating spaces for collaboration and teamwork also fosters communities. This one hits a whole range of other emotional needs as well. For example, working in teams to achieve a common goal gives a sense of status within social groups, and also intimacy – being accepted for who you are.

What does this mean in practice? Above and beyond well-equipped formal and informal meeting spaces, create welcoming areas where people can go to socialise, recharge or relax. A work café is a great example of this. Provide a mix of seating styles, great coffee, healthy snacks, and of course charging points.

Colours and textures (consider them wisely!)

The colours and textures in your office have an impact on the emotional wellbeing of your employees. Warm, inviting colours and textures create a calming and supportive environment. Whereas cooler colours and more industrial textures energise and focus your team.

Whatever you choose to go with, be mindful of your neurodivergent team members. Bold, bright colours and certain patterns can create sensory hypersensitivity and be stressful for some. What feels right for one person, might not feel the same for another. That’s why it’s important to talk to your team and provide a range of working solutions to look after everyone’s emotional needs.


Being inclusive means meeting your team’s attention emotional need by providing a sense of belonging, acceptance, and understanding. You should always encourage people to be themselves at work and make them feel comfortable. This could be having an accessible office ensuring that all areas of the office are easily accessible to employees with disabilities with ramps, lifts, and appropriate signage. Or it could be by reflecting the diversity of the team through providing prayer rooms or decorating with diverse artwork and murals, or naming meeting rooms after important people from different backgrounds.

Natural light

The WELL Building Standard lists light as one of the main concepts for ensuring workplace wellbeing. Bringing as much natural light into your office as possible is a game changer! Natural light regulates every human’s circadian rhythm, reduces stress and increases feelings of wellbeing – boosting overall happiness.

If you struggle for natural light, try switching off the harsh fluorescent lights that often fill office space and replace them with some softer lamps. This is just one example of a small change that can have a hugely positive impact.

Healthy workplace culture

Workplace wellness relies on more than nice office surroundings.

Culture, including a sense of meaning and purpose, provide the foundations for a workplace where everyone feels fulfilled and engaged. To do this, communicate the company’s mission and vision so it’s clear how every piece of work contributes to the bigger picture.

Status and achievement are also important emotional needs that should be met at work. Celebrate your team’s hard work and accomplishments, alongside the provision of development opportunities. This will help them feel valued and accomplished in their work.

In conclusion

By considering the emotional needs of your people at the office design stage, you can create a supportive and fulfilling workplace that fosters productivity, enjoyment and employee wellbeing.

Do you know what your people want from your office?

Talk to us! We can help you create a workplace that enhances health and wellbeing. Through workplace consultancy, you can understand how to design office spaces that cater to the specific needs of your team.


Chloe Sproston

Creative Director