Is your workplace contributing to stress and anxiety?

Dec, 2019

15.4 million working days were lost to work-related stress between 2017-2018, according to a report on work related stress and anxiety by The Health and Safety Executive, which demonstrates that the recognition of World Mental Health Day and International Stress Awareness Week shown by businesses in the UK in recent months is for a very good reason. Potential stressors include issues around job content and its demands, lack of support, organisational culture, bad management practices and the physical work environment. If these issues are excessive and prolonged, they can cause ‘Burnout’, a phenomenon recognised by the World Health Organisation caused by chronic workplace stress.

The effect your workspace can have

Studies have indicated that 95% of office workers say the quality of their workspace is important to their mental health, and 64% say their workplace has contributed to feeling stressed. Symptoms can be physical, psychological or behavioural and range from headaches, insomnia and irritability to depression, aggression and feelings of isolation. The design of the workspace, where employees spend 8-10 hours per day, plays an important part in positively influencing mood, engagement in their work, company loyalty, relationships with fellow colleagues and their overall wellbeing.

Promoting a positive environment for employees

  • Introducing elements such as moss walls, plants and natural materials to the design of the workspace, to connect our inherent need to affiliate with nature (biophilic design), have been proven to aid concentration levels and relaxation which has a positive effect on productivity at work.
  • Creating a culture where individuals are empowered to work when, where and how they work based on the concept that work is the activity we do, rather than a place we go (Agile Working), and designing an environment that allows employees to choose from a variety of settings that best suit the task they are doing (Activity Based Working), provides team members with a sense of trust and autonomy that they can tackle their responsibilities in a manner that they seem fit and is more conducive to completing the job at hand in a more efficient way.
  • Providing informal break-out spaces with comfortable seating has a hugely positive impact on collaboration and communication amongst colleagues, leading to better relationships at work, which evidence suggests leads to a happier workforce. They also provide a well-needed alternative away from one’s desk to recharge and recuperate, both mentally and physically, which means less likelihood of burnout and stress overload.
  • Considerations should be made to minimise of distractions from noise, which can impact on one’s productivity levels and mood when at work, especially in open plan offices. This can be addressed with the implementation of specific work areas for quieter, more focussed, responsibilities, whether that be acoustic booths and acoustic panelling, small 2-4 person meeting rooms, or solo phone booths.
  • It is important to satisfy our fundamental needs too which includes access to natural light and fresh air, correct lighting and temperature, kitchen and eating facilities where team members can sufficiently refuel and socialise.
  • The promotion of healthy lifestyles both inside and outside of the workplace will help to improve wellbeing at work. This includes providing cycle racks and drying racks to facilitate cycling to work, providing access to fresh fruit and healthy snacks, and encouraging movement throughout the day whether that be with sit-stand desks to work at, spaces which encourage physical activity such as yoga sessions during lunchtimes or even fully equipped areas to work-out.

Taking steps in the right direction

Issues such as burnout, unhappiness at work, are contributing towards Britain’s Productivity Crisis which is currently costing the UK Economy £4bn per year are all reasons why improving staff wellbeing should be an important consideration for all businesses. The design of your workspace can influence your work culture, whether that to be more agile, more collaborative, more social, more inclusive, more active, or more empathic and ultimately, all and any of those initiatives can lead to happier and healthier employees.

Jim Nayak – Relationship Manager at AMH Projects

AMH Projects are a commercial interior design and build company, working with organisations in the South West, South Wales, Midlands and M4 corridor. For more information on how to help reduce stress and anxiety through workplace design, please visit www.amh-projects.co.uk

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