So, we have all received the dismal news that we're going into another lockdown in a couple of days and for many people this is going to have a huge strain on mental health. Many of us will be still continuing to work from home and for others, they may have to go to work or use the office to separate their home life from work life. Wherever we are, we need to ensure that our environment boosts our mood and encourages a better sense of wellbeing. 

For employers, identifying what triggers poor mental health in the workplace can help improve employee wellbeing, boost productivity and decrease absenteeism. A key area to focus on is our physical environment.

In this post I will explore the elements of design, from colour to the presence of nature, which can help to reduce anxiety and improve our wellbeing.

Restrictive environments and anxiety

Within an office there are many types of people; some of whom may be dealing with stressful projects, sat at their workstation staring at their screen for 3 hours, in dark and isolated spots. They may feel overwhelmed by responsibility. On the other hand, there are employees who simply need to escape from the noisy, buzzing open plan office. Everyone is different, perhaps these people simply need some quiet time.

'Agile working' means that employees can adapt their working space to get their work done in the best way to suit them; it improves their productivity and is a big help in reducing stress. A workplace which includes collaborative zones can encourage colleagues to come together to talk about their problems creating a social space for open conversation that can stop stress manifesting into severe anxiety. Furthermore, private and quiet spaces can accommodate various privacy needs.

When employees have options, it empowers them to feel productive and remain motivated.

Move Around !

Many employees spend the majority of their day seated at their desks and this static position can really lower their moods. Sit-stand desks can make a huge difference, encouraging employees to alternate between sitting and standing which could be the small amount of endorphin-releasing exercise they need. It has been proven that this small burst of energy can positively increase a person's mental health and wellbeing.

Two images. In one, a man works at a sit-to-stand table. In the other, four colleagues gather round a standing-height table.

Natural Lighting 

The correct lighting is extremely important during the winter months when employees travel to and from work in the dark. Lighting can really impact mood and therefore, productivity.

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.

So, how can we get the most from the small amount of natural daylight hours that we get in winter? Glass screens are a simple way to break up office spaces whilst still allowing light to filter through. Artificial lighting is also key and many products mimic natural daylight closely so it is important for M&E engineers in assisting interior designers in specifying wellbeing focused products within their designs.

Connect with nature ! 

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. You can easily improve your working environment by offering 'biophilic design' elements so that employee's moods are subconsciously lifted. 

In the 1980s, the biologist E. O. Wilson invented the term 'biophilia' to refer to the ways that humans need and seek out connections with nature. Studies have found that elements of the natural world or even reminders of them have a positive effect on mental and physical health. Biophilia refers to the incorporation of daylight, free-flowing air, organic materials, plants, even wildlife–into houses and workspaces.

From reducing stress to improving air quality, the benefits of plants alone can be huge in the office. Simple ideas such as using organic materials like wooden flooring and furniture help to create a feeling of being grounded in your environment and surrounded by nature. 

There are many ways interior designers can help to inject some of the outdoors into offices. Greenwalls, paving and grass effect carpet tiles, illuminated ceiling tiles which depict the sky and wallpapers with scenes of trees and lakes can really generate a positive atmosphere in specific spaces within an office and help employees to connect with nature.

Stop hoarding ! We are living in a digital age ! 

A cluttered or unorganised office negatively impacts both your mental and physical health. One of the biggest reasons why offices are untidy is because people simply have too much outdated paperwork and unnecessary objects. These stock piles are contributing to stress and anxiety. Simply taking a few minutes each day to sort out areas within the office or at home will make the task more efficient. 

Investing in a trendy piece of storage or some attractive lockers or units to store any information will solve the problem. These pieces of furniture can also double up as screens to separate breakout zones and working spaces within the office environment.

An organised interior space has surprising benefits such as improving sleep, reducing stress, improving relationships, reducing depression and anxiety as well as improving productivity. 

Rethink your office 

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 simply be that the workplace environment does not accommodate some of the elements I have mentioned and an interior designer can always assist you in rethinking your office design to enhance wellbeing.

To discuss any interior design requirements you may like assistance with you can contact me on 0345 045 0050 or cristinariley@pickeverard.co.uk