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
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
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