Pieter Desmet


Before we dive into the matter of designing for emotions at the workspace, let’s go back to the history of the workspace. From a scientific point-of-view, what has changed in the design of the workspace and how did it evolve over the years?

‘Design decisions always derive from the discourse that is apparent at the time of the creative process. After the First and Second World War, the new technologies and intense relation between man and machine, combined with the extreme conditions of the war, made ergonomics and safety the main focus for research and design. The most 
influential designs of that time are designed by Charles and Ray Eames in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The human body became the mould for new furniture design.


After a few decades, the discourse shifted from ergonomics to usability. In the 80’s and 90’s workspaces had become more digital, challenging companies to design interfaces that people could easily understand. One of the most famous companies that pioneered in the way people interact with technology is Apple. With the use of analogue thumbnails, recognizable for the user, they communicate new functions in a comprehensible way.


Nowadays, when you look at the workspace in relation to well-being, it is no longer about ergonomics, nor about usability. We focus on how people experience a product in the workspace. How it provokes emotions, or enables certain activity. When looking at Prooff, you see that the focus of the modular concepts is not on the product, but on the people that are using them. When you want to improve well-being in the workspace, you should look at furniture as a supporter of certain activities.'


We are curious to hear some more about your definition of well-being and the ways you can measure well-being or happiness of the workspace as an employer. Can you elaborate on that?

'The way we perceive well-being is based on how we feel about our lives. When designing an office space, design has impact through the activities that it facilitates. Good design also represents or symbolizes these meaningful activities. Where marketers connect symbols to products without them having anything in common, interior- and product designers add symbolic value in its design. It values the desired activities the product facilitates. If an employer can create a safe environment that facilitates different ways of working and collaborating, you can really contribute to well-being.'


Image: Prooff WorkSofa, a focal piece that facilitates dialogue and discussion as a communal meeting point.

Prooff WorkSofa


'There are 25 types of positive emotions. When you are investing in well-being at work, there are three types of values that need to be considered to achieve the sweet spot: virtue, pleasure and personal significance (see diagram). The value of virtue for example, can be found in objects that make a person feel morally good like sustainable products and materials in the office space. The workspace can enhance personal significance, when furniture concepts help employees to pursue their personal goals. Lastly, the idea of pleasure can be implemented in experiences that provide a positive effect.


In the end, to improve well-being at work, you should look at the symbolic value that adds purpose to a specific task, object or room. For example, buying a bigger television does 
not make someone substantially happier. However, when the purpose of the television is to gather a large community to come together every week, the bigger screen enables the possibility to do so. When the workspace hits the sweet spot of virtue, pleasure and personal significance, the overall happiness of employees will rise.'

Diagram Wellness at Work
Pieter Desmet


So the workspace of the future hits the sweet spot of virtue, pleasure and personal significance. As a specialist in the field of experience design, what are your hopes for the future of work?


'Well-being is a holistic topic. It is difficult to pinpoint which elements in your company culture really contribute to more well-being. I’ve seen a lot of companies focus more on storytelling about well-being, then challenging themselves to really make a difference. I’ve noticed that companies who truly challenge themselves to apply well-being to their business, gain more resilience for the future. Both in the longevity of the team as the production rates.


For me personally, I hope that the future workscape entails a fully integrated work-life environment. Along the years, I’ve seen my private life and work life collide. Nowadays, I also show my holiday pictures to my colleagues. It would be perfect to have a company culture that enables me to sleep at work, and have meetings at home.'


Download our Future Prooff Report to get more insights on improving well-being at work.

Let’s shape the future of work together

Find more insights on how to improve well-being in the workspace in our vision report.

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