People can spend close to 90% of their time indoors and can spend about a third of their waking hours at their workplace. Is it any wonder then that our physical or mental health is greatly affected by the aspects of our workplace?
If working conditions are undesirable the result can mean lower work performance, increased error rates, injuries and absences. However, just the opposite can occur with a well-designed workplace. More often or not, when planning office designs, it generally focuses on the physical effects of the workers and not how it affects the well-being of the workers.
Employee health is directly linked to employee productivity and as we well know employee productivity directly relates to your bottom line. So it is in your best interests to design your office space that takes into account way of improving your employees’ health.
There are four main areas to consider that could increase employee well-being and benefit employees with certain mental health problems:
Social relations:- personal space. The amount and type of personal space within an office environment can encourage or discourage social interaction between employees. The physical layout and furnishings will have a significant impact on their personal space.
It is there worth taking into consideration when designing your office layout; that when employees have the ability to control their privacy, the adverse effects of other workplace stressors are reduced. Make office allocations that are mindful of the personal needs of the individuals, especially those with mental health problems, and balance that with the needs for group/team interaction. Don’t overcrowd open plan areas and create effective breakout areas for staff to relax in.
Attention Focus:- People can be easily distracted and some may have difficulty staying on task. For employees in whom maintaining attention is a challenge, it is worth considering enclosed offices or for open plan office designs, increasing panel heights and providing other distraction reducing elements such a sound masking and sound absorbing materials.
Stress Reduction:- Stress is something every person feels and experiences to some degree every day. A beneficial workplace feature that has been shown to reduce stress and help people recover from stressful situations is windows. Viewing nature, whether through a window, living wall or images (pictures) can also help to reduce stress. Consider prioritising offices near or with windows to those employees who have stress-related health problems and/or whose work is very stressful.
Photobiology (Seasonal Mood Disorder) is people who suffer mood changes due to insufficient exposure to sunlight. By providing adequate light within the workplace may have mental health benefits for even non-clinically diagnosed people.
Remember to bear in mind if your office does not have many windows and is absent of natural light, lighting can play an important role in creating a comfortable, light and spacious environment. Linking artificial lighting cleverly with the natural daylight can ensure optimum lighting conditions whilst minimising energy consumption.
In summary, there is no question that the design of your workplace has an impact on the people who work in that space. When designing your office remember to consider not only the physical impacts but also the mental health aspects.