Inclusive and accessible design

A guide to inclusive office seating

Graphic of a group of diverse people discussing around a table at work using various types of chairs

Lauren Eskin is a Graduate Inclusive Design Consultant at Motionspot. She has a degree in Product Design from the University of Technology Sydney and is passionate about user-centred design processes and evidence-based practice.

Here Lauren explores how seating can be used in inclusive office design, different types of ergonomic office seating, and considerations to encourage engagement and enjoyment in the workplace.

Using seating to create an inclusive office

Creating an inclusive office involves providing spaces where everyone feels comfortable, supported, and represented. Design teams have a responsibility to consider how all people can have a positive interaction with every space, and make informed decisions to actively celebrate staff, welcome visitors and encourage future users.

Seating is a core element of every office. It can define our engagement with a space and transform its purpose; whether that be waiting in reception, focus in open offices, collaboration in meeting rooms, recreation in cafeterias, or quiet in breakout spaces.

The key ingredient to make seating more inclusive is optionality. There is no ‘perfect’ or ‘right’ seat that will work for everyone. Offering a variety of seating types across different areas will provide choice for people to engage with a space in a way that is best for them. Providing options will also create a more flexible office, where adjustments can be made depending on the needs of the space and people using it.

And remember - providing inclusive furniture does not exclude creative, considered interior design pieces. Seating becomes more beautiful when it can be enjoyed by everyone.

Purpose of the space

Seating requirements will change depending on the purpose of the space and the people using it. 


Lobbies and reception areas are a good example of spaces where people will wait. People may pause in a space in preparation for a meeting, to rest, or compose themselves before transitioning to a new environment. Some people may prefer to have their back facing a wall for feelings of safety, while others may prefer seating that looks away from screens or the movement of people.

Graphic person seated on comfy wide seat with arms

In any area with a cluster of seats, it is important to offer varied seating heights, as well as seats with arm and back support, to assist people in lowering into, sitting comfortably in, and rising from a seat. Offering some seats that do not extend fully to the floor can provide comfortable foot placement.

Seating can be easily identified in a room if it visually contrasts the floor, walls and other objects in the room. However, complex patterns can be confusing for some people with visual impairments or sensitivity, and should be positioned in a way that they can be avoided.



Focus spaces may be smaller pods, private rooms or in open office spaces. Adjustable seating is an excellent option where one person will use the seat for an extended period of time. This allows individuals to create a preferred height and ergonomic support.

Graphic of an older person seated at an office desk in an ergonomic chair

Seat covering and materials can also have varying impacts and what is best for a space should be considered in the context. Fabrics can dampen sound, but different textures can feel uncomfortable on the skin for people who are hyper/hyposensitive. Exposed metal can be cold to the touch but is light to move, and timber can visually soften a room but also be hard and uncomfortable for long periods of time.

Recreation and collaboration

Recreation spaces might be breakout areas, or cafeteria spaces. Seating in these spaces should encourage a disconnection from the work environment and an engagement with coworkers - essential for mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. It is integral that everyone feels like they can engage in recreation spaces, and no individuals feel excluded.

Collaborative furniture can be informal clusters of seating for quick touchdowns, or more formal such as meeting rooms for scheduled discussion. Being able to offer both types of spaces, with different seating styles in each, gives options for employees to collaborate in a space that is best for the activity and the people involved.

graphic of three people seated in different types of seating collaborating at work

Providing lightweight and easy to move furniture means a space can be adapted depending on needs, such as increasing the space between seats for people to move through easily. Unnecessary noise can be reduced by adding footpads. In open touchdown areas it is important to consider the position of seating out of pathways for people to comfortably pass and neither group be disrupted.

High stools, booths or large benches may not accommodate everyone and should not be provided without other options. For example, high stools can be uncomfortable for people who are short of stature and are not welcoming for wheelchair users.


Sensory rooms can be beneficial for neurodivergent employees to reset, and flexible seating options are welcomed, such as for lying down, reclining or rocking. For smaller spaces, this can be provided in the form of sheltered seating separate to the main office environment. Acoustic seating with a high-back and winged sides is perfect for creating a sense of calm and quiet.

Graphic of a person on a comfy chair reading in a quiet space surrounded by books and plants

Parents rooms are designed for people who need a private, safe, and clean place to express milk, or breastfeed at work. Seating should have good lumbar support, and providing cushions and blankets and a raised footstool enhance comfort. Multifaith prayer rooms provide a quiet place to reflect, pray and meditate, and supportive seating should be provided for people who cannot stand for long periods.

The power of good seating

Good seating meets everyone’s needs, gives users the power of preference, encourages safety and comfort, and ultimately brings people together.

However, fostering inclusive spaces is a journey. If you are considering your existing office provisions against the key considerations, that is the first and biggest step towards inclusion. Actively learning about your office, creating opportunities for employees to voice their needs, and weaving everyone’s voice into design decisions is key.

Seeking specialist consultancy will provide thorough, considered advice based on best practice guidance and lived experience knowledge. The Motionspot team have diverse backgrounds in design and architecture on subjects such as neurodiversity, occupational health, and product design.

We can review your plans and product choices and offer expert guidance on your inclusive office seating requirements. To discuss your project please contact us.

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Motionspot's design team reviewing plans in the office

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