Creating a calm office environment
It’s Stress Awareness Day on 6th November and that got us thinking about the effect our office environment has on mental health. We spend so much time in the office that poorly designed spaces are bound to have a negative effect on our mood or concentration. Here are some considerations you might want to take when thinking about redesigning or creating a new calm office space.
Noise can destroy a calm office
Noise can be really stressful. We’ve all sat next to the person on the train with tinny headphones or the one yelling down their mobile in a quiet cafe. Even a humming fridge or a ticking clock can start to grate. In an office environment, there is often a mixture of people who need to be on the phone (sales, procurement etc.) and people who really need to concentrate (accounts, developers etc.). If you’re a small company, not in a position to have separate departments, this can create conflict on both sides. If practical, providing soundproof phone booths can really benefit everyone. Also think about where you’re positioning noisy spots i.e. water cooler, photocopier, machinery. We all get annoyed sometimes by noise but for people who struggle with stress and anxiety, a squeaky chair can really add pressure to mental wellbeing. It’s all a matter of taking practical steps but don’t ignore noise niggles – try to find a solution.
Choosing colour and decoration
You don’t need to turn your office into a hotel spa but a few colour and decoration considerations can bring a bit of zen to your workspace. Great interior design should work towards an inspiring, productive environment. Don’t think that pastels are the solution. The solution is a well-thought-out coherent design that harmonises colours, textures and shapes. Grotty old offices with stained carpet tiles and peeling paint can genuinely reduce mood and increase anxiety. If your staff are feeling stressed out by the state of the office, consider what clients might be thinking! If you don’t want to get a professional designer (and of course, we would suggest you do!), at least plan rather than introduce a spur of the moment lilac feature wall.
Storage and organisation
We’ve visited a surprising amount of offices with cardboard boxes lining the corridor! Messy offices are quite stressful places to work in. The lack of organisation can be stressful in itself but also we all know how irritating it is to waste time searching for a file. Sometimes storage is seen as an afterthought but it’s vital for the smooth running of an office. Easily accessible, storage is vital and don’t underestimate how much you need. Space-saving storage solutions are very good value and there’s a huge amount of variation in design. When we embark on space planning storage is one of the first considerations as it tends to be rather more permanent and less flexible than desks or breakout areas. Don’t let storage be a stressful afterthought – it should be at the heart of a calm office.
Lighting to create a calm office environment
As ever, lighting is crucial. Remember those flickering fluorescent tubes that have fortunately been resigned to the past? Lighting can really impact health, both mental and physical.
80% of office workers, said that having good lighting in their workspace is important to them, and two-in-five (40%) are having to deal with uncomfortable lighting every day.Forbes
Firstly make the most of natural daylight if you can. Humans react well to natural light – just 10-15 minutes of exposure can release endorphins. It gives us a comforting sense of time too – ever been to IKEA in bright sunshine and come out in the dark? Yeah, it’s weird. As most of us work on screens there can be a conflict between natural light and computers. Find smart solutions like anti-glare blinds – don’t block the windows – natural light is a valuable resource and key for a happy workforce and calm office.
We need artificial lighting too so what are the best choices? You may be tempted to go for warm relaxing lighting but in a workplace, it may just send people to sleep. What’s generally recommended is ‘daylight’ lamps. Try to replicate natural lighting as close as possible. Around 5-10% of people suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which is essentially a form of depression brought on by shorter daylight hours. There are lamps available designed specifically to counteract this disorder so you may want to investigate those too. Every office is different but following the mantra of ‘natural light is best’ should put you in good stead.