Live from CoreNet Global Summit: How does workspace impact human minds?

At the second day of CoreNet Global Summit in Seattle, we got a few moments with Dr. Sally Augustin - a practicing environmental/design psychologist and the principal at Design With Science to discuss how workspace impacts our mental states and how we can use the space as a tool to foster more positive mental states at work. Get her inputs in our interview below.


As a design and environmental psychologist, what degree of impact do you think our workplace has on our minds? Can workplace drive and define behavioral change of people?

Just like culture, biology and many other factors, how a workplace is designed has a significant impact on how people think and behave within it.  For example, people feel and think differently based on different colors of light or wallpaper, the presence of plants or whether the designed space aligns with the culture of their organization.  All these aspects within the physical environmental have an influence on what’s going on in our heads.

I would say that workplace design is one of the factors that influences how people think and behave. Isolated, the physical workplace cannot guarantee a change to happen. What it can do however is to enable certain behaviors and make desired actions more likely to happen.

What do we need to consider when selecting the most productive workplace setting for our employees?

This highly depends on the type of work your employees are performing.

A good example is that if you do a lot of repetitive work, your work does not require much intense focus and concentration then an open-space can be a very good solution. An open-space will in this case prevent you from “zoning out” which negatively impacts your performance. Open offices can also work for people that need constant or immediate access to each other. For example, employees that work on coordinating emergency responses.

On the other hand, if your job requires intense focus and concentration, open space may cause too many distractions which in turns would hurt the productivity.

How can we foster more positive mental states at work?

To foster more positive mental states at work, employers need to make sure that the design of the workplace is in alignment with people’s fundamental needs and know how to respond to them.

This has partly to do with supporting their health and wellbeing during their work day and giving them a comfortable level of control over their work environment.

People generally work best when they have a comfortable level of control over their physical environment.