(Work) Space is a prerequisite for well-being.

In our previous articles about employee well-being, “Well-being is in the Exchange of Values and Purpose “, and its following chapter, “Wellness is thriving in Abundance” we described a new approach to employee- and employer well-being practices in purpose-driven organisations.


This article concerns the importance of (work) Space as a prerequisite for life and well-being in the work environment from a Systems perspective.


A first statement: Space is a prerequisite for life

  • Without Space, there is no growth, exchange, or balance,
  • Space is a Prerequest for life
  • Space is for the matter what cognition is for the mind.


Second statement: Well-designed (work)Spaces are a prerequisite for well-being.


From a Systems View of Life perspective, these statements highlight Space’s fundamental role in the dynamics and functioning of living systems.


Let’s elaborate on each statement:

  1. Without Space, there is no growth. Growth in living systems involves the expansion or development of structure and function. Space provides the necessary room for this growth to occur. With adequate Space, organisms can expand and develop properly. Whether it’s the physical space within which cells divide, and tissues expand or the ecological Space within which organisms can thrive and evolve, Space is essential for growth at various levels of the organisation.
  2. No exchange: Exchange is crucial for energy, matter, and information flow within and between living systems. Space facilitates this exchange by providing pathways for the movement of resources and interactions between system components. For instance, in ecosystems, spatial arrangements determine the patterns of nutrient cycling, predator-prey interactions, and gene flow among populations. Without space to facilitate these exchanges, the system would become isolated and unable to sustain itself.
  3. No balance: Balance, or homeostasis, is a crucial characteristic of living systems that enables them to maintain stability amidst changing conditions. Space plays a role in achieving this balance by allowing for the distribution and organisation of resources and processes within the system. For example, spatial arrangements influence the distribution of habitats and niches within ecosystems, affecting the balance of predator and prey populations. With adequate Space for these interactions, the system may become imbalanced, leading to stability or collapse.
  4. No change: Change is inherent in living systems, driving adaptation, evolution, and development. Space provides the context of these changes, offering exploration, innovation, and transformation opportunities. Spatial dynamics shape the movement of organisms, the distribution of habitats, and the formation of new ecological niches, all of which contribute to the ongoing evolution of life. Without Space to accommodate change, living systems would stagnate and be unable to respond to environmental pressures or exploit new opportunities.
  5. Space is a prerequisite for life (living organisms): Space is a fundamental prerequisite for the existence and persistence of living organisms. From the molecular level within cells to the vast expanses of ecosystems, Space provides the necessary environment for life to unfold. Organelles and molecules require Space within cells to carry out biochemical reactions and maintain their structure. At larger scales, organisms rely on spatial arrangements to access resources, interact with other organisms, and navigate their environment. Without Space, life as we know it would not be possible.
  6. Space is for matter what cognition is for the mind: This analogy highlights the importance of Space in organising and structuring the elements of a system, much like cognition organises and structures thoughts and perceptions in the mind. Space provides the framework within which matter can interact, combine, and give rise to emergent properties and behaviours. Just as cognition allows the mind to make sense of the world and adapt to new information, Space allows matter to organise itself into coherent structures and systems capable of responding to environmental stimuli and evolving.


From a Systems View of Life perspective, Space is not just an empty void but a dynamic and essential component of living systems, shaping their growth, exchange, balance, change, and overall existence. It provides the context within which life unfolds and evolves, playing a fundamental role at every level of organisation, from the molecular to the ecological.


Space is the matter of what cognition is for the mind.


From a Systems View of Life perspective, the statement “Space is for matter what cognition is for the mind” suggests a profound analogy between the role of Space in physical systems and the role of cognition in cognitive systems. Let’s elaborate on this analogy:

  1. Organising Principle: Space and cognition are organising principles in physical and cognitive systems. Space provides the framework within which matter can organise itself into structures and systems, enabling interactions and relationships between its components. Similarly, cognition organises perceptions, thoughts, and memories in the mind, allowing individuals to make sense of their experiences and navigate their environment.
  2. Structural Framework: Space provides a structural framework for matter to exist and interact within physical systems. It delineates boundaries, distances, and relationships between objects, shaping the spatial arrangement of matter. Likewise, cognition provides a structural framework for mental processes within cognitive systems. It organises information into concepts, categories, and schemas, forming the basis for understanding and decision-making.
  3. Contextual Understanding: Space provides the context within which physical phenomena occur, influencing their behaviour and dynamics. The spatial arrangement of matter determines how energy and information flow within a system and how different components interact. Similarly, cognition provides the context within which mental processes unfold, shaping perceptions, interpretations, and actions. The cognitive framework influences how individuals perceive and understand the world, guiding their behaviour and decision-making.
  4. Adaptation and Flexibility: Space allows physical systems to adapt to changing conditions by providing room for movement, reconfiguration, and evolution. Physical structures can change shape, size, and arrangement in response to external stimuli or internal dynamics. Likewise, cognition enables mental systems to adapt and flexibly respond to new information and challenges. Individuals can update their mental models and behaviours through learning and problem-solving to better fit their environment.
  5. Emergence of Complexity: Space plays a crucial role in the emergence of complexity within physical systems. Complex structures and behaviours can emerge at higher levels of the organisation through the spatial arrangement and interaction of simple components. Similarly, cognition enables the emergence of complexity within mental systems. Individuals can generate higher-order cognitive functions such as language, creativity, and self-awareness by integrating and processing information from various sources.
  6. Interconnectedness: Finally, Space and cognition highlight the interconnectedness of systems at different scales. Space connects entities across spatial dimensions in physical systems, facilitating communication, interaction, and feedback loops. Similarly, cognition connects mental processes across conceptual dimensions, allowing for integration, coherence, and holistic understanding.


The analogy between space and cognition from a systems view of life underscores the profound similarities between the organisational principles of physical and cognitive systems. Both serve as fundamental frameworks for understanding the world and navigating the complexities of existence, shaping the dynamics, behaviour, and evolution of systems at various levels.


Second statement: Well-designed (work)Spaces are a prerequisite for well-being.


In the work environment’s well-being context, Space takes on a multifaceted role that aligns with the principles outlined in the Systems View of Life. Space contributes to well-being in the workplace:


  1. Physical Comfort and Safety: Adequate physical Space in the workplace is essential for employees’ comfort and safety. Well-designed workspaces with sufficient room for movement, ergonomic furniture, and proper ventilation contribute to physical well-being.
  2. Social Interaction and Collaboration: Space facilitates social interaction and collaboration among employees. Well-designed common areas, meeting rooms, and collaborative spaces provide informal communication, brainstorming, and teamwork opportunities. These spaces promote a sense of belonging and community, allowing employees to build relationships, share ideas, and support each other, positively impacting their emotional well-being and job satisfaction.
  3. Privacy and Focus: While social interaction is essential, employees also need Space for privacy and concentration to perform tasks that require deep focus or confidentiality. Private workstations, quiet zones, and individual offices allow employees to work without distractions, enhancing their productivity and well-being. Respect for personal Space and boundaries fosters a sense of autonomy and control over one’s environment, contributing to psychological well-being and job engagement.
  4. Flexibility and Adaptability: The flexibility and adaptability of the physical environment to meet diverse needs and preferences. Reconfigurable, adaptable spaces enable employees to personalise their work environment, fostering a sense of ownership and empowerment, which enhances their overall well-being.
  5. Biophilic Design and Connection to Nature: By creating a connection to the natural world, access to natural light, indoor plants, and views of green features promote a sense of calmness, rejuvenation, and vitality among employees, contributing to their holistic well-being and positively impacting employee well-being.
  6. Inclusivity and Accessibility: Designing spaces that accommodate diverse needs, such as wheelchair accessibility, adjustable desks, or sensory-friendly environments, fosters a sense of belonging and inclusion among employees with different abilities, backgrounds, and preferences.


Like Space in the living world, Space in the work environment is crucial in promoting employee well-being by addressing their physical, social, psychological, and emotional needs. A well-designed environment creates an environment where employees can thrive, improving job satisfaction, productivity, and overall quality of life.