Each year one in six workers will experience a mental health problem and recent statistics show that in 2014/15 workplace stress in Great Britain accounted for 35% of all work-related ill health cases, equating to 9.9 million working days lost. While attention can be captured by the most recent mental health advice and support tools on the market, it’s vital businesses don’t overlook the importance of the office environment in boosting employee wellbeing
To help to ensure a happy workplace you should create office environments which improve feelings of wellbeing. This includes using every inch of floor space to offer variety and stimulation. A happy office promotes trust and appreciation and empowers individuals to choose for themselves how best to fulfil their role.
Flood workplaces with as much natural light as possible by replacing any solid walls or partitions with glass or substituting it with artificial daylight or full spectrum light bulbs. Our bodies need regulated serotonin levels and natural light in order to function well. These help promote healthy sleep patterns, learning, information recall, mental alertness and prevent against the onset of depression, anxiety and stress.
Choose office colour patterns carefully. Studies indicate that colour positively impacts the way we feel. Bright colours such as red, orange and yellow can boost creativity but too much of them can contribute to feelings of stress. Alternatively, use a soothing colour palette of neutral creams, greys or muted pastel tones and then bring out the brighter colours for your office accessories and company branding.
Add plants to the office environment as studies show that plants can help improve office air quality, limit noise pollution and reduce tension, depression, anxiety and fatigue by 37 – 58%. Plants like Areca and Kentia Palms or Dragon Trees are large, easy-care and perfect for the office, adding color and interest, and functionally dividing up work areas.
Create specific work zones so that people can find a quiet spot away from their desks to focus on specific tasks or a purposeful space for conversation and collaboration.
Encourage employees to be active and take regular exercise to combat stress through workplace gyms. If space is limited standing meeting tables or sit-stand desks can be installed. Centralising refreshment, printing and recycling points encourage people to leave their desks and walk around, simulating exercise and opportunities for social interaction, which can combat feelings of isolation and stress
In developing these five steps, we have applied our expertise of over 30 years in designing award-winning offices and the findings of our recent survey of London office workers, which revealed the impact of the office environment on employee wellbeing. ‘Small changes can make big differences’ is not just an old-aged adage – simple changes to the workplace really can refresh employee enthusiasm and create a happy and productive work environment.
By Chris Jenkins, workplace director at Peldon Rose