How flooring can be used to create a more comfortable working environment for those with physical and mental health conditions

The specification of floor coverings within a workplace environment extends further than just aesthetics and staying ‘on brand’. In many instances, flooring has functional benefits for those that use it on a daily basis, particularly for those with disabilities and mental health conditions. When specifying flooring in the workplace, it’s important to not only consider accident risk, but how the wider environment caters to those with mental health conditions to ensure their work surroundings are contributing to wellbeing; with predictions that better mental health support in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8bn per year, careful consideration of your fixtures and fittings can make a significant impact on your bottom line.

When working in an office, most of the day can be spent looking at a screen, causing eye strain, dry, sore eyes, headaches or blurred vision. For those who suffer from existing eye conditions, poor use of design and visuals can exacerbate any discomfort and therefore contribute towards a lack of productivity, or worse, long term illness.

Furthermore, intricately-patterned floor coverings can cause hesitation when moving around a building which increases the chance of an accident – something, as an employer, you actively look to avoid. To aid those with eye conditions, consider using block colours; they act as a navigation tool to important areas such as communal spaces and bathrooms.

It is not just eye conditions that can be exasperated by the interior design choices of a workplace. When evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions and their implications, time should be taken to consider all ways of reducing the potential for such instances.

The colour choice of a floor covering can also subconsciously influence employees and their psyche in the workplace. Choosing a neutral colour based around nature, such as sand and stone, can invoke relaxed feelings, something that would be particularly useful in an office-based environment where those with mental health issues may be present. Bright colours, which in many cases encourage creativity and evokes a friendly atmosphere, isn’t always beneficial; bright colours to those who have a different perception of space can be misleading and confusing, meaning they may be less productive and even unsettled in what should be a safe space.

Further catering to this need, we are seeing increased inclusion of biophilic design within workplaces of all types. Biophilic design sees the use of nature and the outdoors to inspire the interior design of buildings and can be done via the use of wood, or wood look flooring, and even grass, whether authentic or artificial, with theories saying these materials can improve concentration and productivity, lower stress levels and improve general health and well-being. When depression is considered to be the second leading cause of disability, implementing measures to create calming and welcoming workplace environment s can have significant, long-term impact on the future health of your employees.

People with long-term physical conditions are more likely to have a lower general wellbeing, so considering how you can use your fixtures and fittings to create a more comfortable environment for those with physical disabilities or conditions can, in turn, lead to a more positive working space. For example, ongoing exposure to very hard floor coverings can cause damage to feet and joints, so are unsuitable for those who suffer from physical health conditions. If your workspace requires team members to be on their feet all day, specifying a more cushioned floor covering – such as a plush carpet – provides a more comfortable experience for the user, meaning their condition is catered for during a significant part of their day-to-day life.

For those suffering from epilepsy, the chance of a collapse or seizure is an ongoing threat. To fall onto ceramic tiles or wood could cause serious injury in the event of a seizure, while coarse fabrics can cause friction burns. As such, a cushioned covering with a smooth surface, such as Luxury Vinyl Time (LVT) is preferable, to mitigate risk.

Often considered an afterthought, making considered choices regarding the specification of floor coverings within a workplace can have significant impact on the health, safety and wellbeing of the end user, particularly those who are facing pre-existing physical and mental health conditions.