How do you feel when you go into work? Would you like to feel better? For the great benefit of everyone, more and more employers are realising the importance of their workers’ good mental health.
But happy workers are not created just by paying them more money or giving them company cars, or even by having casual thong day or inviting the vintage ice-cream truck over in the afternoons. Rather it comes through building the workplace they inhabit for more waking hours than any other space in their life.
So, how can your office layout improve the mental health of your staff? Let me explain…
Access to natural light
This sounds like an obvious answer, but it’s not easy to create in every office. Workers perform better when they have natural light, with sunlight having a positive impact on stress levels, emotional wellbeing and general physical wellness. Very large offices or those on the lower levels of high-rise buildings may have access to very little, however.
This can be helped through clever design; use of glass partitions, larger windows, and skylights, large-scale mirrors reflecting light into the darker corners, and if needed, using artificial light that is created to emulate natural light.
Connection to nature
While access during the day to sunlight has the greatest impact on a worker’s mental health and job satisfaction, in general, other connections to their natural environment also offer a wonderful boost.
This includes living plants, natural textures such as wood and stone, water features, pets such as fish and birds, and pictures of natural landscapes. This creates happier and more committed workers but also reduces levels of stress and anxiety amongst your staff.
Studies have even shown that the presence of plants in a room has been shown to improve people’s levels of helpful behaviour and wellbeing, which can only be good for work.
Opportunity for silent reflection and concentration
Most offices today still use the cubicle concept from late last century, which has as its greatest drawback the lack of personal space and silence. Bombardment of noise from co-workers, office machinery and more reduces your staff’s ability to concentrate, and in general, makes them quite unhappy.
Workspaces are still communal by necessity, but clever office layout can mean building noisy areas, and areas designed just for silent work. Your staff can move throughout the day and set themselves up where they are most comfortable for their current task; for brainstorming, making phone calls, or hard-core thinking and creating.
Communal spaces for networking, debriefing and socialising
While silence is golden at times, happy staff need to connect with others to stay happy. This is why so many people who work from home will still go to the local café every day. Your staff need to bounce ideas off each other, or debrief following difficult calls, or sometimes just take a break from work altogether.
The ability to laugh out loud several times a day cannot be underestimated on the list of ‘Things I like about work’.
Studies show that workers who laugh together, communicate better, are more productive, and take less sick or stress leave. A happier workplace also increases your chances of attracting and keeping talented people, which can be a boon to your recruitment capabilities.
When used well communal and networking spaces encourage the infection amongst your workers of a good kind; with pleasant buzz vibes and creative inspiration becoming contagious.
Group workers for goals and ideas, rather than executive levels. Think of the television show Mad Men, with the pools of secretaries, the enclosed office rows of the ad execs, and the men upstairs. This kind of grouping is terrible for employee productivity and happiness.
More recent information shows that ideas flow better when people with the same goals or clients work together, rather than separating teams by staffing levels. More work gets done, problems can be solved, issues can be clarified and everyone is on the same page with a minimum of communication.
Use colour well
Use of colour affects the psychology of your staff directly, so wield this power well.
Green has been linked to broader, more creative thinking and feelings of balance. Blue is also highlighted as a colour for productivity and calm. Red apparently makes people angry and hungry, so maybe steer away from too much crimson. A warm pink is a better choice, making people feel more at peace.
Too much of anything is not good, so consult with Interior Flow on your most beneficial use of colour to both encourage your staff and fit in with your company brand and ethos.
Clean and uncluttered space
A clean, uncluttered space enhances the positive living energy flow through your workplace and makes your workers feel better. This doesn’t mean bare, stark, drab or clinical offices, but ones that are open, airy and tidy. Cluttered workspace is bad for occupational health and safety and reduces your workers’ abilities to move around and connect with each other and their natural environments.
Encourage the flow of light, air, energy, and ideas by designing a smarter office layout, with hidden storage and connectivity, and adaptable furniture. If your staff do not look like they are trapped in their office, then they will feel and work as though they are free.
Promotion of physical health
For many employees, good mental health means good physical health. This can include offering stand up desks, or the opportunity to walk or work out during the workday.
Create an office layout that makes your people move around, either in talking to each other or just in taking regular breaks during the day, with bonus points for a layout that encourages access to lots of lovely Vitamin D.
Ask your staff what they want
Your interior designer will have a wealth of ideas for better office layout, but the best ideas will come from your staff themselves. Talk to your staff before you start the design process, and include representatives from all corners of the office in every stage of creation. Ask them what they want, you might be very surprised by the insight that you receive.