What kind of office does a "PTSD worker" need?




Natural disasters (such as earthquakes and fires), accidents, and terrorist attacks can all lead to

post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with women having nearly three times the overall prevalence

compared to men. Moreover, individuals with PTSD often do not exhibit early symptoms, and many

patients have no history of mental illness, making it difficult to identify. Therefore, employers need

to pay more attention to the mental health of employees in the workplace.



Key Symptoms of PTSD:


To better understand the potential psychological effects of trauma and stress experienced after a

stressful event, Dr. Robin Pratt from Enhanced Performance Systems conducted in-depth research.

With over 40 years of experience in psychological cognition and behavior assessment, he pointed

out that people's attention is highly fragmented under high-pressure conditions, leading to disrupted

work thinking and reduced efficiency. Based on this theory, researchers selected various types of

PTSD patients to participate in the survey.


The survey revealed that their symptoms varied in intensity, and the specific symptoms are as follows:


                                    1. Hyperarousal: They remain constantly alert, always searching for real and perceived threats in

                                   their environment, and in severe cases, this can develop into paranoia.


                                    2. Easily startled: They feel extremely uneasy even with slight unusual noises or someone appearing

                                   near their "personal space."


                                    3. Difficulty concentrating: Due to their constant vigilance for environmental changes, it is challenging

                                   for them to focus on work.


                                    4. Emotional triggers: They are overly sensitive to others' expressions, which can lead to fighting,

                                   arguing, or the silent treatment.



Practical Design Guidelines:


In summary, designing an office environment suitable for individuals with PTSD poses significant

challenges for designers.


From a people-centered perspective, office space design should consider the needs of all employees,

including those with psychological and mental health issues. We believe that the environment can

influence a person's mental state, and design can help alleviate the adverse effects of PTSD symptoms

on work performance.


It should be noted that the environment plays a supportive rather than determinant role. It is

applicable to general or mild patients and should not replace medication therapy.


1. Workspace size and layout: To avoid distractions and encourage focused work, provide PTSD

employees with larger workstations than typical setups, ideally accommodating 2-4 people, but no

more than 4. If the work environment is an open space, consider the placement of workstations:

arrange them in relatively quiet areas, preferably convenient for accessing other functional areas

such as small meeting rooms. Provide views of beautiful landscapes outside rather than parking lots

or backstreets.


2. Furniture selection: Furnish the space with modular and adjustable furniture, and ergonomic

office chairs. Allow these special employees to create their own preferred work environment within

a designated area. Options like Herman Miller's Hive workstations or Haworth's glass-walled office

spaces are good choices.


Suicidal thoughts are severe reactions to PTSD, and self-harm is considered a safety crisis in future

workplaces. During the office space design process, designers should pay attention to these issues

and ensure that the furniture is collision-proof and resistant to injury.


3. Lighting planning: Allow PTSD employees to control the brightness of indoor lighting. If the

workplace utilizes fluorescent or LED ceiling grid lighting, which illuminates the entire space, the

best solution is to create enclosed areas where lighting can be dimmed or restricted. Overly glaring

or bright lighting can be especially harmful to individuals sensitive to light or suffering from migraines.


Natural light from windows or skylights should also be regulated with blinds or shades to control

glare or temperature. These glaring lights can make it difficult for PTSD employees to concentrate,

thus affecting their work.


4. Noise prevention: Working in a noisy environment causes hearing fatigue, reduces work efficiency,

and can lead to insomnia and various diseases. A quiet office environment is even more crucial for

individuals with heightened awareness due to PTSD.


Controlling noise in an open workspace poses a significant challenge for designers, especially in

outdoor work environments. White noise or soundproofing devices may not be effective because

PTSD employees are highly sensitive. Ample carpeting, soundproof wall panels, and privacy screens

are the best choices for addressing this issue.


5. Odor isolation: Common office odors, such as burnt popcorn, old coffee, or ink, can trigger

symptoms for some PTSD employees.


Designers should keep odor-emitting items away from PTSD employees' work areas, design enclosed

printing rooms, ensure proper ventilation to keep the air fresh, and avoid using air fresheners or other

scented products.


6. Color and artwork selection: Colors and images can affect people's emotions and well-being,

especially for highly sensitive PTSD employees. Bright orange, yellow, or red colors can induce anxiety

and psychological pressure, while densely cluttered or disturbing images or artwork can cause

restlessness. Dark colors can create a sense of heaviness. Therefore, the primary colors in the office

should be low saturation, and the artwork should feature non-threatening themes or scenes.


PTSD is a psychological phenomenon that remains dormant until triggered, and it may not have obvious

symptoms. While designers are not therapists, they have a responsibility to create an ideal office

environment for employees with PTSD through design.


We also strongly recommend that senior HR personnel in companies become members of their own

workplace design teams. After all, they have a better understanding of their employees than designers