8 ways office design can help reduce stress
Company culture, workload and personal circumstances are all factors that impact employee wellbeing.
But did you know the physical office space is also one of them? Noise, temperature, visual distractions, and a lack of space or comfort can cause physical and psychological stress. Chronic stress lowers job satisfaction and productivity and can eventually lead to burn-out.
As an employer, you can help reduce this impact and avoid long term stress by making the right choices in office design. The architectural and functional features of the office are particularly significant. Let us break it down for you…
Open plan, flex or private?
Employees who work in small open plan offices — with 4 to 9 people in a room — report the lowest stress figures, followed by large open plan offices (shared by 25 or more people), according to a Swedish study among 468 employees in 7 different office types. Flex offices and medium-sized open plan offices are related to higher levels of stress.
Privacy versus teamwork
Every type of activity should have its own dedicated space in the office. An activity-based working environment increases employees’ autonomy: they choose where, with whom and how to work. The more an employee uses multiple work locations within the workplace, the more they report that the space enables them to work more effectively. There should be adequate ‘quiet zones’ and spaces where employees can concentrate and have privacy; also, there should be sufficient spaces for teamwork and meetings. In general, activity-based working has positive merits in the areas of interaction, communication, control of time and space, and satisfaction with the workspace.
The indoor environment has a considerable impact on our well-being. Office workers risk ‘sick building syndrome’ in an unhealthy indoor climate. Here’s a few examples of identified factors that can pose a physical and psychological risk to your employees:
- Office noise can impact concentration, and at high levels can even cause ear damage
- High CO2-levels in the air can cause headaches
- Pollutants and low humidity can cause eye problems
- Lack of circadian light affects our sleep cycles and can impact our productivity, alertness, and mood
It’s important to ensure air quality, humidity, temperature and acoustics are monitored and adjusted to ensure a healthy working environment.
Did you know that colours affect our mood, concentration and productivity? Using the right combination of colours is important. So, instead of choosing grey and beige for every corner of your office, consider colours that stimulate activities in that specific office area. Blue and green, the two most common colours in nature, have been shown to improve wellbeing, efficiency and focus. For creative spaces, consider choosing yellow.
Nature in and around the office
Greenery in or around the workplace isn’t only beneficial for the climate and biodiversity, it’s good for employees, as well. Views of reduce stress reduce stress. Employees with more nature contact at work reported significantly less perceived stress and stress-related health complaints. Also, greenery aids concentration and increases productivity. Office plants purify and humidify the air, whereas an attractive green outdoor area invites employees to take lunch walks.
Nature can help people to recover from stress. To make your office greener, consider putting plants in the reception areas, food, and work spaces, such as green dividing walls. On the exterior, you can use green roofs and green facades, and use plants, borders and trees for attractive landscaping.
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the biggest health threats of our age. Physical activity, also at work, promotes both physical and mental health. In four federal office buildings in the USA, open plan offices resulted in more physical activity and less stress, compared to cubicles and private offices. Furthermore, higher activity levels at the office were related to lower stress levels outside the office.
Open and attractive stairways, adjustable workstations and activity spaces for workouts are some examples of promoting physical activity at work by an active office design.
Meditation and powernaps
Relaxation or meditation rooms are a great way to encourage ‘time-out’ and mindfulness. Employers such as Google and Apple already offer mindfulness programs to their employees. Mindfulness and meditation reduce anxiety and stress and improve resilience, focus and mood.
Another way to recharge is by taking a power nap. Studies show that 30 minutes of sleep in the afternoon can reduce stress and improve the immune system. It can also reduce the negative impact of a lack of sleep — a common problem for many employees. Having ‘nap pods’ or relaxation rooms in the office is related to higher productivity and a better mood.
Humans are social animals: relationships are critical to our wellbeing. As we spend a lot of time in the office, encouraging social connection in the office is an effective way to build company culture and a sense of community. Consider mixing up the office layout, encouraging different departments to share working spaces. And remember when it comes to social spaces a good coffee bar with a social barista is guaranteed to get your people talking.