Paul Dolan and Chloe Foy
• Design in Mind builds on a wealth of knowledge which shows the huge impact the
physical environment has on health, wellbeing and productivity.
• We bring this evidence together in a clear and concise way to allow organisations across
all sectors to design their physical environments in ways that generate sizable and
• We are a one-stop shop for all those interested in taking the latest evidence from
behavioural science and applying it in their own settings.
• Academics often frame their studies in ways that cannot easily be applied to practical
design and designers sometimes lack the tools to adequately assess users’ needs
• We bridge the gap between theory and practice to create better environments for all.
• As part of this, we facilitate an iterative test and learn approach where we can establish
the causal effects of the physical environment on health, well-being and productivity.
• Significantly, we are at the cutting edge of developments in the measurement of well-
being. We provide clients with the tools to measure and value the wellbeing outcomes of
• By testing, measuring and monetising the well-being impact, we can determine the
return on investment
• We spend 85% of our lives in buildings or
• Sick leave costs UK employers £29 billion
pounds a year
• Office workers are 66% less productive in an
open-plan office due to noise from others
than when left on their own
• 88% of employers agree they have a
responsibility to encourage employees to be
• One-third of office workers are dissatisfied
with the interior climate and one in five
suffer from health complaints
• Last year, each worker missed 8 days of
work through sickness
• People in “good” health are 20% more
productive than those in “poor” health
• For every £1 spent on health promotion,
there is a £6 yield in return
From too little to too much …
With ski-lifts for meeting rooms,
Slides between rooms, merry-go
Rounds for ‘carnival of ideas’.. it’s all
just too much.
Multi-tasking reduces productivity. When the
mind is flitting between different tasks it has
to reorient itself each time and this uses up
our mental resources more quickly.
Over-stimulating places distract people
from work. Email distractions cost UK
businesses £10k per employee so we don’t
need any more.
Over-stimulating spaces are just as bad as
sick, dated and oppressive ones.
Here, everything is salient, efficient.
With simple design, and small
changes that focus on well-being,
you can have it all: healthy, happy,
productive and creative workers.
It’s the salience which is key to a successful environment.
So we have gathered up the elements of the design to create a mnemonic using the
word SALIENCE to act as a useful checklist to use across all sectors.
SALIENCE keeps the design process simple and efficient.
The benefits of a checklist are substantial, and have been shown to literally save lives.
They are used in clinical surgery, aircraft operations, software engineering and
Checklists bring us back from our “inattentional blindness”, whereby we focus on
narrow aspects of a decision and ignore the bigger picture.
Checklists bring common sense to the fore.
Overview of evidence – SALIENCE
Unpredictable and attention seeking sounds have a negative effect
Drawing in air from the outside without causing a draft
High colour temperatures (closer to daylight)
Unambiguous and familiar
Furniture and equipment that are adapted to people rather people adapting to it
Drawing conscious and unconscious attention to plants and nature
Green-blue and colours in low contrast
Through measuring and testing
• Discuss any potential issues and obtain general feedback
• Provide further causal evidence based on s.a.l.i.e.n.c.e
• On-site assessment and plan of the physical environment
• Collect baseline data of subjective well-being (SWB) measures
in-line with the Office of National Statistics
• Take stock of results from baseline data
• A simple trial will be designed to ‘test’ the interventions
• Collect SWB during trial and test different stimuli against a control group
• Once effects have been determined, the design can be developed with the
option of bringing in specialists
• On-going measures of SWB to be taken
• The well-being impact and return of investment will be determined through a
• Professor Paul Dolan is an internationally renowned expert in happiness, human behavior
and public policy. He has over 100 peer-reviewed publications and amongst various
academic appointments was a visiting research scholar with Daniel Kahneman at
Princeton. Amongst his current professional activities, he is a member of the Cognitive
and Behavioural Sciences Panel of the World Economic Forum and was previously a
member of the ‘nudge unit’ in the Cabinet Office, where he authored the ‘mindspace’
report. He is chief academic advisor on economic appraisal for the UK Treasury and he
wrote the questions being used by the Office for National Statistics to monitor national
happiness. He has advised many companies, including Visa, Aviva, Shell, BUPA and the
• Chloe Foy has several years of experience is in designing interior spaces and is now a
researcher in behavioural design at the London School of Economics. She understands
the importance of design of our interior environments and the impact they have on our
health, wellbeing and productivity. Over the years within this discipline, she has with a
wide range of clients from charitable, luxury, events, domestic with all walks of life and
this makes her savvy to the spectrum of contexts and her ability to be personable and
flexible. Her creative background enables her to combine and provide the science and
apply it to the context.
Measuring and monetising
• Prof Dolan has developed robust ways of measuring wellbeing that show the full
impact of interventions as designed for and used by the Office of National Statistics
(using a scale of 0 – 10).
• These questions go directly to the heart of the workplace experience, such as how
worthwhile people find what they do in life
• We use these questions and modify them to more directly measure the impact of
the physical environment on how people feel right now
• We are now able to estimate monetary values for the wellbeing impact of design-
1 unit change in well-being = £10,000
Intervention =1 unit impact on well-being
Monetary benefit of intervention = £10,000
• Sound affects us psychologically, physiologically, cognitively and behaviourally, even
though we’re not aware of it.
• Occupational and environmental noise exposure results in hypertension and blood
• Noisy offices means additional physiological effort and hormonal response.
• Over hundreds of thousands of years we have associated well with sounds of nature.
They are the best for concentration and generally preferred.
• In hospitals, beeping machinery, computers and general din have doubled in the last 40
years. It affects patients and their sleep, delaying recovery. Staff dispensing errors are
also on the rise as a result.
• Music is the most unconditionally powerful positive mood inducing intervention there is. It
associates the mind with pleasure and reward with signs of euphoria.
• Music has been shown to decrease anxiety and calm neural activity in the brain. It has
an effect on brain injury and stroke patients in rehabilitation wards.
• During the last two decades there has been increasing concern over the effects of
indoor air quality on health. New buildings are now more energy efficient and that
has meant they are more airtight than older structures.
• Advances in construction technology have caused a much greater use of
synthetic building materials. This has led to contamination in the air that may build
up to high concentrations.
• Air movement, temperature, dryness and odour have also been shown to provoke
symptoms like coughs, sore throat and dry eyes.
• Good ventilation essential allows workers to think more clearly and improves task
• Air conditioning units release moisture, mould and toxins which lead to increased
respiratory problems and asthma. It causes more absence due to sickness in the
workplace compared to natural ventilation.
• The most effective lighting for increased well-being is completely context
dependant. This is obvious, but it also comes down the individual.
• Lighting affects us directly, affecting what and how well we are able to see; and
indirectly, in the form of effects on our mood, behaviour, and even hormonal
• Natural lighting results in happier, more productive workers and should always strive
to be used wherever possible. It reduces length of stay and mortality in hospital.
• Cooler lighting (high colour temperature which is closer to daylight) enhances
• Warmer lighting (low colour temperature like lamps, incandescent) is more relaxing
but can cause drowsiness. It has however been shown to be better for decision
• Pharmaceutical dispense areas in hospitals make far less errors when they have the
brightest lighting (1,500 lux).
• In Chicago, nightshift workers mood and alertness was improved with brighter
lighting compared to dull.
• People Are inherently visual. We learn, remember and are affected by visual
associations. Images matter.
• Creative environments stimulated by visual art or prints actively promote health
and wellbeing where workers have more opportunity to innovate.
• Although pictures of mountains are motivational, they are predictable and our
minds respond to originality, acting quite literally, to stimulate us, we can do a lot
more in innovating the workplace.
Modern Images and Prints - positively stimulate employees, reflects consideration
for their employees work environment and the quality of service
Photography – sense of humanity into the workplace with which we can relate to
Branding- reflects company culture, pride, success and stimulates clients
• In Sweden, psychiatric patients gave consistent preference to unambiguous and
familiar art being the best for positive feelings and sense of well-being.
• Over 300 inpatients preference was for images of nature and it helped to improve
outcomes such as stress and pain.
• Proper ergonomic design is necessary to prevent repetitive strain injuries which can
develop and lead to even more time off work.
• Psychosocial working conditions like job control, and satisfaction have received
most attention, but it is the physical working conditions that proved to be most
important determinants of sickness absence.
• Good ergonomics make products easier to use.
• Eliminate distraction, increasing productivity.
• Manufacturing process more efficient, reducing cost.
• Show the company care about their employees which allows for employees to
care about the company.
• Patient-transferring devices and toilet modification resulted in a reduction of back
injuries of almost 50%.
• Humans have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years surrounded with plants.
Our environment and lifestyle has changed dramatically, however, genetically, we
• In a windowless computer lab in Washington, plants reduced blood pressure,
increase reaction time by 12% and increased attentiveness.
• Plants remove CO2, absorb noise and reduce effects often linked to Sick Building
Syndrome (SBS) such as stress, fatigue, coughs and headaches.
• In Sweden, heart-surgery patients in ICUs who were assigned a picture with a
landscape scene with trees and water reported less anxiety and needed fewer
strong doses of pain drugs than a control group assigned no pictures.
• Adult patients undergoing a painful bronchoscopy procedure reported less pain if
they were assigned to look at a ceiling- mounted nature scene rather than a control
condition consisting of a blank ceiling.
• We can only generalise and provide examples in terms of which colours are most
pleasing, relaxing or arousing. They are extremely context and culturally
dependent, which means they must be considered carefully, case by case.
• Green - Blue - most innovative, pleasant, relaxing and productive colour although
should be avoided in colder environments.
• Bright Red - makes walls appear further away, stops lingering, people spend less
time in red environments.
• Yellow–green - least pleasant and is the most arousing and dominant.
• In a computer generated 3-D commercial lobby space, warm hues with light
value dominant, medium chroma (not to dark or too bright) and low contrast were
the most pleasing and relaxing.
• Gender and personality can also come into the equation, for example, men prefer
achromatic colors than women. Women can also be more colour-conscious and
their colour tastes more flexible and diverse.
• Introverts may be more affected by strong colours and patterns than extroverts,
potentially affecting their work performance.
To use resources wisely, we must establish what works
• The best way to do this is through natural field experiments, where different
interventions are randomised across different groups
• We have expertise in ensuring that randomisation takes place so that the true
causal effects of the interventions can be established
• Often one behaviour or outcome will lead to other effects, and we are at the
cutting edge of conceptualising and capturing these spill-over effects
• In all of this, it is critical that the right measures are in place to capture impact
• We will ensure that outcomes such as health, wellbeing and productivity are
measured in ways that allow for the return on investment to be established
• Crucially, we ensure that the interventions are designed and evaluated in ways
that allow the successful ones to be scaled up and rolled out more widely
• Subjective wellbeing (SWB) is an umbrella term for how we think and feel about
life and our experiences
• Whilst many organisations may not view SWB as the final consequence, it
promotes productivity, happiness, creativity, health and job satisfaction.
• Increased productivity
• Peer-rated & financial
• Reduced absenteeism
• Creativity and cognitive flexibility
• Organisation performance
• Faster recovery times
• Reduced anxiety
• Staff morale
• Individuals with positive emotions are
• Happy workers are more likely to be
rated highly by supervisors and in terms
of financial performance
• Happy individuals are more likely to
engage collaboratively, creatively and
co-operatively during negotiations
• Greater satisfaction among employees
predicts productivity and performance,
e.g. revenue, sales and profits
• Patients recovery more quickly and
experience less pain
• Patients perception of waiting time
• Better overall care for patients
SALIENCE AT WORK
• Cluttered space provokes
unconscious distraction decreased
satisfaction both in employees and
• Dark carpets and furniture make
space appear smaller
• Air – de-clutter allows for more free
flow of air, reducing dust
• Light – white cupboards reflect
• Ergonomics – de-clutter makes the
space easier and more pleasant to
work in which reduces distraction
• Nature – plants promote positivity
and reduce dust pollution
• Colour – blue walls and light green
carpet increase productivity and
Paul Dolan and Chloe Foy