In this week’s blog we suggest six ways your workplace can be designed to improve employee mental health. Workplace design isn’t a one-stop cure for employee mental health challenges, however careful office design can help to alleviate certain stressors and triggers for those employees who suffer with mental health related issues. Let’s explore how you can design your space and build happier and healthier workforce.
Consider Flexible Working Arrangements
Many employees find themselves embroiled in a constant balancing act between their personal lives and professional careers, especially those who are carers, single parents or those with underlying physical health problems. People who fall into these categories are more likely to experience higher levels of stress, therefore employers should consider flexible working arrangements such as remote or home working.
Your workplace can accommodate for flexible working arrangements through designing hot desking areas, ensuring that your office space is used to its maximum potential and freeing up space for collaborative working areas or private working zones.
Provide Spaces Away from the desk
Designing spaces where employees can take their mind off work is an ideal way to reduce stress levels in your workplace. Breakout spaces can be designed with a variety of stress-relieving activities and features such as snooker and air-hockey tables or televisions.
Anything which takes your employees minds off the stresses of work will mean your people return to their desk refreshed and with renewed energy to tackle anything the day throws at them.
Create a Sense of Community
New project management technologies and instant messaging services have streamlined modern work processes, reducing the need for human interaction within the workplace. Unfortunately, these developments are not without consequences as a growing number of people are starting to suffer from workplace loneliness. One survey found that 42% of UK office workers do not have a single friend at the workplace, despite spending a great proportion of their lives in the office and often working long hours.
Loneliness can have negative impacts on both the mind and on physical health, increasing the likelihood of depression, high blood pressure and obesity, therefore employers should consider ways to combat loneliness within the workplace.
Designing collaborative and social spaces into your workplace is one of the best ways to tackle the feelings of isolation and loneliness, as instilling a collaborative culture can allow for the formation of friendships and professional relationships. Setting up a sports and social committee which runs activities outside of working hours provides employees with the perfect environment to form friendships with colleagues, mitigating the potentially negative consequences of workplace loneliness.
Bring the Outdoors Indoors
Biophilic workplace design includes the use of plants life, natural lighting and outdoor scenery to bring office workers a little bit closer to nature, even to those offices located in urban settings.
Limited access to natural light, especially during the dark winter months is one of the main causes of stress and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), leaving employees feeling depressed for large parts of the year. Workplace environments should be designed to maximise natural light during the day, through locating desks near to windows and installing glass partition walls which means natural light can be easily dispersed throughout the office.
Designing plant life into your workspace, even through living walls or liberally placed indoor plants can offer benefits to air quality, as plants will convert dirty air and convert this into breathable oxygen. Providing employees with access to views and proper lighting can also bring some surprising productivity gains, as one study observed a 23% boost to productivity when employees were located closer to windows.
Promote Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Adequate exercise and nutrition are both key contributing factors to maintaining a healthy mind, therefore creating an environment which allows employees to easily adopt healthy lifestyle choices may be exactly what your employees need to stave off mental health related issues.
According to the Mental Health Foundation physical activity is a fantastic tool to alleviating mental health woes as exercise can relieve stress, improve self-esteem and can reduce anxiety levels. Employers should consider offering subsidised gym memberships or even offering on-site gym facilities in order to reduce mental health related problems and absenteeism. Exercise also has great benefits in terms of reducing physical health related ailments and can combat obesity and reduce the impact of office related health issues.
Including kitchen and breakout areas within your workplace design means employees can prepare and eat food without having to rely on processed foods from the nearest fast food outlet. Consider providing fresh fruit and healthy snacks to promote a good nutrition throughout your office rather than vending machines which often only offer unhealthy sweets and chocolate.
If your lease is coming to an end you may be considering whether you should stay put or relocate your office. One factor to consider is whether your current office provides amenities either on-site or nearby which can make your employees lives that bit easier. Childcare, parking, banks, doctors and dentists are all great amenities to have nearby, especially as it can reduce the stress placed upon employees who have to run important errands on their lunch breaks.
Careful workplace design can provide a much-needed boost to employee mental health, although its not going to solve all of your employee’s problems, consideration of the physical work environment can certain alleviate some of the triggers and stresses often associated with mental health challenges. If you’re looking at improving your workplace and employee wellbeing, our team of designers and project managers are well versed in creating spaces which are designed with wellbeing in mind. Get in touch today to see how we can transform your space.