Investigating Equitable Office Design: Addressing Women’s Wellness in the Corporate Office through Human-Centered Design to Improve the Quality of Life for all Employees
The goal of this undergraduate capstone project is to investigate how open offices impact women in the workplace and to propose a prototypical alternative to an open office. Both a literature review and a research agenda were conducted, in order to gather information regarding this topic. The literature review outlined current research on the topic. It was found that, while open offices were originally designed to allow for equal workspace and greater collaboration, budget costs and private offices remaining in high demand diminished many of their positive qualities. Consequently, open offices began to rely on a hierarchical layout, which often causes gender segregation due to gender imbalance in the leadership of companies. Currently, open offices have issues regarding acoustic and visual privacy, uncomfortable interior temperatures, and gendered furniture. There are also often a lack of accommodations for women, such as lactation rooms. These issues often impact women more than men, resulting in a higher sick leave and heightened discomfort amongst women. The research agenda is organized and completed in three parts: an on-site observation, a survey, and interviews. The data collected often aligned with and substantiated the data from the literature review, confirming that both men and women experience discomfort in an open office environment, but the negative impacts on women are greater. While many people praised the open office environment for promoting teamwork and collaboration, it was also found that teams were often not placed together, and the opportunities for productive social interaction were often wasted on distracting conversations. The findings also highlighted elements of the ii open office that were lacking, including privacy in circulation spaces, acoustical control, and spaces for quiet and private work. The final step to this capstone project implements the data and findings into a realistic application. The final creative agenda uses evidence-based design to propose a prototypical alternative to an open office, based on the concept of transparency, translucency, and opaqueness. Transparent and translucent areas utilize minimal to no partitions, but as spaces become more opaque, more partitions are employed. Workspaces are designed with visual and auditory privacy in mind, with many acoustical applications throughout the office space to dampen the spread of distracting noise. Rather than assigning employees to one workspace, everyone is encouraged to choose where they want to work based on their workstyle and privacy needs. Because this layout does not rely on a hierarchical divide of space, everyone is given the equal opportunity to use the office space as best fits their needs. This eliminates the gender segregation that a hierarchical layout often creates. Additional considerations for the needs of women in this prototypical office include two private wellness rooms that can be used as lactation spaces, private corridors with minimal site lines, and a warm and bright interior that combines both traditionally masculine and feminine aesthetics.
Interior Design (BFA)
Department, Program, or Center
School of Design (CAD)
Courtney Ter Velde
Collins, Jacqueline, "Investigating Equitable Office Design: Addressing Women’s Wellness in the Corporate Office through Human-Centered Design to Improve the Quality of Life for all Employees" (2023). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus