Do you pay attention to the mental health of your employees? Often, it’s easy to focus on physical illnesses – from colds to bad backs – that impact your employees’ performance and lead to absenteeism. However, the truth is that mental health problems could be having a bigger impact on your workplace than what you think. In fact, according to the Mental Health Foundation, 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.
Identifying what triggers poor mental health in the workplace can help you improve employee wellbeing, boost productivity and decrease absenteeism. And, one key area to focus on? Your employees’ physical environment.
In this blog post, we will explain exactly how office design and set-up can affect your employees’ mental wellbeing. We’ll also give you some handy tips to adapt your office design for mentally healthier employees.
Restrictive environments & anxiety
Imagine an employee who is dealing with a particularly stressful project. They’ve been staring at their screen for the last 3 hours, in a dark and isolated spot. They feel overwhelmed by the responsibility and don’t know how to cope.
On the other hand, imagine another employee simply needs to escape from a noisy, buzzing office. Everyone is different – and perhaps this employee simply needs some quiet time.
Reduce stress with agile working
Now imagine your workplace offers agile working in at least the physical sense – meaning that both employee types can adapt their working space to get their work done in the best way. It would improve their productivity, helping them reduce stress massively.
Mentally-healthy working environments include collaborative zones that encourage colleagues to come together to talk over their problems. A social space for open conversation can stop stress manifesting in severe anxiety. Furthermore, you should consider private, quiet spaces – for alternative privacy needs.
When employees have options, it empowers them to get their work done – without the obvious external stresses like noise. Or less obvious but just as detrimental pressures, like isolation.
Low activity equals low mood
Many employees spend the majority of their day seated at their desks. From feeling lethargic to feeling physically stiff, having low activity levels can dramatically impact employee mood.
However, incorporating small bursts of activity has been proven to increase your sense of wellbeing – as well as having physical health benefits. Although it’s difficult in the working day to exercise, as an employer you can create small changes through workplace ergonomics.
Encourage positivity through sit-stand desks
Sit-stand desks are becoming hugely popular – as they can make a huge difference.
Although it seems minor, encouraging employees to alternate between sitting and standing could be the small amount of endorphin-releasing exercise they need.
Low light level contributes to depression
Have you considered lighting in the office? Especially important during the winter months when employees come to work in the dark, lighting can really impact mood – and then, productivity.
Actually, low light levels are proven to affect some more than others. According to The Independent, 1 in 3 people in the UK suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) – which is also known as ‘winter depression’ caused by the northern hemisphere low light levels.
Boost light levels with glass partitioning
Even with hours of daylight reducing to a mere 7 hours in the winter, think about natural light in the office – and how you can get the very most out of it.
Using glass partitioning is a great way to break up spaces but still allow light to filter through. What’s more, artificial lighting can also be very clever now – and mimic natural daylight closely.
No nature negatively impacts mood
Ever felt like your workplace seems stuffy? It’s a common complaint that should be taken seriously when it comes to mental health.
When employees feel ‘stuck’ indoors, their mood tends to decline. Although we’re not experts on the reasons why, we know it has a lot to do with our human need for nature. So, when we are in artificial environments surrounded by artificial objects – like computers – our mood can take a significant dive.
Unfortunately, in the UK it’s not always possible to get outside. From rainy days to busy schedules, employees will come up with 10 excuses before they go for a walk around the block on their lunch break.
Inspire happiness through biophilic design
However, you can easily improve your working environment – so employees’ moods are subconsciously boosted – simply by adding plants into the workplace.
From reducing stress to improving air quality, the benefits of nature can be huge in the office. Read about plants’ productivity-boosting qualities here.
Why it’s important to reduce stress, anxiety, low mood & depression in the workplace
The NHS describes stress as “the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure.” It’s very common – and we all experience it, especially in the workplace. In fact, a small amount of stress is important. It even helps many employees get things done.
However, too much long-term stress can turn into anxiety. Furthermore, consistent low mood can result in depression. These are two common mental health conditions – but there are an array of other conditions employees could suffer from.
If you want to ensure productive and successful business operations, you need to manage mental health in the workplace. Not to be considered in isolation, mental health strongly impacts employee physical health too. The result? Absenteeism is likely to rise – even if your employees do not explicitly tell you about any mental health problems they are suffering from.
Improve employee mental health through good office design
Making design changes to your workplace can inspire healthy habits and positive moods, alongside other more direct approaches to nurturing mental wellbeing.
If you’re noticing increasing levels of absenteeism and waning productivity, it’s worth looking at the root causes of these issues. Often, it can drill down to the workplace environment – which can be greatly enhanced by rethinking your office design.
Or, contact Callum on 01785 817114 to speak to an expert about your office fit-out plans.