how to relieve stress through office design 

‘A day at the office’ may be one of the most overused, everyday phrases, but don’t let its frequency blind you to the very real stresses a full 9-5 (if you’re lucky!) can bring. Whether it’s that all-important client meeting, project that is fast approaching its deadline or general office politics that can leave you tearing your hair out – work is hard!

office design cheshire

Luckily for you, there are ways to minimise the oft-fraught tension within the four walls in which you spend the vast majority of your time.

In fact, forgetting, even, the automatic distractions – such as the constant ring of the phones or the little blue box alerting you to yet another email which, let’s face it, may as well just live permanently on your screen – the design of an office itself can lead to unwanted stress. Take a bland office layout, for example; restricting creativity among your employees can enhance the feeling of ‘the daily grind’, instead of enabling a little bit of fun which would allow your workers to actually enjoy doing what they’re doing. And, of course, it should go without saying that this will lead to enhanced productivity, too!

Similarly, communal areas are the holy grail of an office, as this allows your employees to congregate socially in between the natural stresses of the working day and let off some much-needed steam. The alternative is an increased amount of time staring at screens or sitting alone at their desks, which not only causes a whole host of health issues (inactivity is now listed by the World Health Organisation as the fourth biggest killer) but enhances loneliness and boredom, too. As you can imagine, this is further multiplied as we are required to spend more and more time in the office amidst the backdrop of a crumbling economy. There are no two-ways about it; work-life boundaries are become more blurred; we, therefore, have a duty to bring as much life to our working day, as possible.

 

Down time

So, what can you do? Pop a couple of couches, plants and magazines in a relaxing, softly-lit ‘no work zone’ to encourage downtime and give a boost to overall productivity – making sure they remain tidy at all times. You can even mix both business and pleasure by introducing things like collaborative meeting spaces, standing desks and creating pathways that encourage random interaction. According to productivity expert Dr Levine in a New York Times article, short breaks should follow intense 15-minute working slots throughout the day, so any way you can encourage your employees to recharge their batteries – do! On the flip side, never underestimate the importance of privacy, and when it comes to actually doing work (because let’s not forget, that is the actual purpose of being there!), make sure people have ‘do not disturb’ zones so that they don’t succumb to external distractions. A healthy balance between an open and closed office design is usually the way forward.

Open door policy

In a similar vein, think about door-less offices if you want to reduce tensions in the workplace, as so often stress arises from a lack of communication and a fear of the unknown – as well as staff hierarchies. Encouraging employees to approach their superiors with questions and feedback, for example, is key to minimising the level of stress.

Multiple studies have pointed to a link between desks and mindset, so you may also want to think about positioning desks vertically with employees facing each other to further promote the community spirit.

Decor

In terms of decoration, there are endless things you can do. First and foremost, peppering your workplace with imagery and items that align with your brand and the overall vibe of your company will help foster a sense of purpose among your employees whilst at work – as well as adding much-needed pops of colour. A word of caution on colour, however; too many bright colours can serve as a distraction and cause headaches, so ensure you have a good balance of those that increase productivity with more soothing and muted tones to enhance relaxation. In addition, encourage your employees to personalise their own space for a happier, healthier approach to their work.

Light

Natural light is also a real winner in keeping people both happier and more productive, as it regulates our body clock and elevates our mood, so do what you can to ensure you have as much of this as possible. Did you know that prisons often deliberately exclude natural light from inmates as a punitive measure? Food for thought, eh? One study has even found that office workers with windows slept 46 more minutes a night than their windowless peers. Favouring large windows – as well as effective blinds that allow you to reduce the glare from the sun without shutting yourself off from the outside world – will prevent your employees from feeling as if they’re serving time – the added benefit being that in the two and a half days a year we have nice weather, you can air out the office – vital in keeping any unwanted germs outside the building, too, as well as keeping your employees more alert and refreshed. Using glass wherever you can – for example in office partitions – can also help with this, too.

“Slim framed glazing is ideal for both windows and doors within the office as this helps to maximise the natural light ingress in the space keeping office workers awake, alert and more focused on their work”, Architectural Glazing company, IQ Glass, explains. 

“‘Daylight’ bulbs offer a similar level of light to that of natural daylight, so are a good choice for general office lighting”, adds Charles Barnett, MD of lighting company Lyco Group. “As the name suggests, ‘full spectrum’ bulbs can produce the full range of the colour spectrum, and mimic daylight even more closely. If you wish to specifically reduce illnesses such as SAD (seasonal affective disorder) in your workplace, then these are definitely the right choice.

 

“Lighting design for offices usually happens when there aren’t computers and people in them, so it is easy to see how the end result can feel like an afterthought”, he continues. “Plan carefully to take into account where people will sit, the position of their screens, what activities are being carried out and how the light is dispersed throughout every part of the office.

“Finally, don’t be afraid to take a few design risks.  There is a plethora of stylish, colourful and modern lighting options that can complement the unique style of your business and everyone who works there.”

 

Storage

 

Clutter is a big no-no in terms of minimising stress, as it can not only be both overwhelming and depressing but also make it very difficult to focus on your job – embodying the endless hamster wheel of just how much you have to get through. It is vital, therefore, to find effective storage that removes paperwork from plain sight whilst simultaneously introducing measures that reduce the amount generated in the first place.

 

Greenery

The concept of the humble office plant has gained a new lease of life in the scientific theory of biophilia, which argues that humans have an instinctive bond with other living things. Not only will they brighten up a workplace, they’ll also boost the oxygen in the air by removing pollutants.

Ergonomics

The applied science of equipment design, you’d do well to invest in things like quality chairs that are designed to maximise productivity, adjustable monitors and standing desks, as just a few examples.

Exercise

There is an intrinsic link between the body and the mind, so it may be worth investing in an office gym – enabling your employees to keep fit both physically and mentally as exercise is a number-one stress-reliever. You can also think cleverly in terms of active design – favouring subtle office inclines within a floor to get your workers burning calories without even realising it! Other initiatives that help achieve this include things like centralising certain areas, such as refreshment and recycling points, to encourage your workers to leave their desks – the added benefit, of course, being that this will serve as social interaction, too.

Noise reduction

Constant exposure to noise can undermine an employee’s motivation which will, in turn, have a negative knock-on effect in terms of work-related stress. Countless studies have shown that those who work in a quiet environment are more productive than those who are distracted by noise, thus you may well want to think about things like noise cancelling walls and acoustic surveys to ensure your office does not fall victim to this.

Many of these suggestions can be a quick fix, but sometimes an office will really benefit from a complete overhaul, and although it may seem like a big cost, you can rest assured that you will be saving money in the long run by reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity and staff retention levels.

As Churchill said: “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.”

 

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