If the thought of arriving at the office fills you with dread, it might not be your job which is the problem.
Our surroundings have a big impact on our stress levels and well being.
Our office environments have traditionally been dreary places, with dull colour schemes and generic furniture. But more and more people are realising that making a few small tweaks to their office environment can be surprisingly powerful.
Add some plants
It is no coincidence that many of the coolest offices are full of plants. Adding a touch of green to your office space can have a remarkable impact on stress levels.
Not only will it improve air quality, but studies have shown that plants improve our psychological health. The effect is particularly noticeable in office spaces, where plants are proven to reduce stress, increase productivity and boost resilience.
Some office spaces are taking their greenery seriously, incorporating indoor or rooftop gardens.
Make sure you opt for hardy plants which can survive weekends and require minimal care. Aloe, spider plants, ivy, and peace lilies are all excellent choices. Hanging planters can make the best use of limited space.
Switch to a standing desk
Just like being away from nature, sitting all day is not natural and can be seriously harmful. If you work in an office, the chances are high that you spend most of your day sitting down. Switching to a standing desk can reduce blood sugar spikes, improve heart health, alleviate back and neck pain, and boost your metabolism.
Better health means less stress. Standing desks also have a direct impact on mental health. In one study, 87% of people who switched to them reported increased energy.
Ongoing research is revealing that standing desks decrease the risk of depression and anxiety. Healthier, happier people are also more productive at work.
Try an adjustable desk which can be raised or lowered as required. Spending half your day sitting and half standing is recommended, especially while adjusting to the change of working style.
Declutter the office space
A chaotic work environment more often than not means a chaotic mind. Clutter is visually distracting and can lead to stress due to the time wasted in finding what you need.
Taking the time to clear surfaces, organise drawers and throw away rubbish can turn a stressful workplace serene. This need not take hours of effort – a few minutes at the end of each day is easily long enough.
The best way to keep your office tidy is to get rid of anything unnecessary, not to waste valuable time organising it. Consider scanning documents rather than keeping paper copies, giving away duplicate stationery and equipment, and moving distracting items out of your line of vision.
Improve the light quality
Most offices are lit with fluorescent strip lights in a bid to reduce electricity bills. However, harsh artificial lights are not only toxic for the environment, they are also harmful to those who work beneath them.
The risks include migraines, disrupted sleep, anxiety, and increased stress. Flickering lights and the buzzing sound they commonly emit can be distracting and harsh on the eyes too.
Reducing stress at work is largely about creating an environment that is as natural as possible and suits your biology. The perfect way to do this is by getting exposure to natural light.
A number of small changes can be made to reduce the stress caused by poor lighting. If possible, try sitting by a window and keeping lights off during times when natural light is enough. Adding a specially designed filter which widens the light spectrum can alleviate the impact on stress levels.
A calm mind leads to better quality work, more innovation and enhanced creativity, if you would like assistance turning your office environment into a more calming and productive place then contact us for more information.
Stress, depression, anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders accounted for most sick days taken in 2017/18.
With a supportive workplace culture, work-related stress can be reduced before it results in the kind of burn-out that requires time off. Burn-out happens when an individual feels they can no longer cope with the stress they're under.
It can build up slowly over time, or it can happen suddenly when several stressful events or situations coincide to become unmanageable. Different people handle stress differently, and the symptoms manifest in a variety of ways.
Work-related stress is far more common than it should be, and there's plenty employers can be doing to lower this risk, including the following:
1. Offer agile working
Most of us enjoy having the freedom to choose. Choice gives us flexibility. It makes us resilient and adaptable. Life isn't rigid, so why should work be? The traditional 9-5, 5-day working week is looking increasingly dated in a world where we can easily access documents and systems almost anywhere, any time through the Internet and our portable devices.
More and more organisations are adopting agile working practices. The office remains a good base for focused work and collaboration, but staff should be given the tools to hot-desk, work on the go and work from home whenever it's suitable.
It's time to ask how much stress is caused by the daily grind. Not the work itself, but the cyclical routine of having to be somewhere between specific times every day, regardless of what life throws at us. Humans require stimulation to thrive.
Why shouldn't workplaces reflect this?
2. Provide comfy ergonomic equipment
Ergonomic chairs and other office equipment shouldn't just be bought in for employees who complain of bad backs. Ergonomic equipment is not a cure: it's supposed to prevent musculoskeletal problems from even getting the chance to start.
Adjustable chairs and thoughtfully designed computer accessories are comfortable to use. It feels better to work with a workstation that's been set up according to DSE principles. With good posture you breathe better, you think clearer, you don't go home at the end of the day feeling achy and fatigued.
The emotional impact of being in pain is huge, and if that pain is being caused by office equipment then that equipment needs upgrading.
3. Encourage microbreaks
Taking a regular short breather from whatever you're doing is good for your stress levels. The problem in many workplaces is the fear of looking like a slacker. If you keep getting up to stride around the office every half and hour, won't people think you're avoiding work?
For employees to feel comfortable taking microbreaks, managers need get on board and lead by example. Make it clear that getting up is not just okay but encouraged.
4. Health, safety and wellbeing training
By law, staff should be trained to recognise health and safety risks in the workplace so that they can protect themselves. Stress awareness training is not compulsory, but it is a good way of helping staff identify signs of work-related stress in themselves and others.
5. Sit-stand desks and active working
Physical activity can have a profoundly positive impact on mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, computer work is by nature sedentary and most offices fail to encourage suitable levels of activity. Active working is the principle of incorporating more physical activity into day-to-day office life. Here are some ways to achieve it:
6. Employee benefits
When it comes to staff perks, it's important to consider what will have the biggest impact. What do staff value most? Perks that benefit wellbeing include duvet days (where staff can take an impromptu day off if they feel they need it), sabbaticals, paid volunteer days, and even bring-your-dog-to-work day.
7. Wellbeing committee
Ask for volunteers to lead a wellbeing committee. They can organise awareness events, training days, resources and activities geared up to help staff manage their stress levels.