A (Mentally) Healthier Office

Winter can be a hard time for a lot of people. This can be especially true in today’s weather and cultural climate. But, as an employer, you have significant tools to combat feelings of apathy, depression and discontent on the part of your employees. And, we’re going to lay them out for you here.

Value Employee Choice
Allow employees to feel like they have control over their work experience. In order to accomplish this, it is important to have flexible and adaptive work environments. On the employer’s side, this helps to reduce employee stress and promote more productivity. On the employee’s side, this helps to create a sense of trust. The more accommodating a workplace is, the more of a “win-win” environment is created.

Ways to accomplish flexible work environments is allowing employees to have a sense of choice. This could be as simple as having quiet areas and focus rooms or having collaboration and small huddle areas. Soft seating options verses the typical desk and chair option. Standing desk options verses the traditional stationary desk. Open work café verses a closed off kitchenette only. It is also important to design for all types of personalities. Not everyone is an extravert, just like everyone is not an introvert either. The more a workplace tries to accommodate for all employees, the more successful the company will be.

Understand Employee Needs
As an employer, it is both a personal and professional responsibility to make sure employees are healthy and happy during the winter. It is important to be able to emphasize and support people because it is a direct reflection of what the company stands for. As stated above, the sense of choice is super important. When at work, a choice of where to spend your 8 hour day can go a long way. Allowing employees to not get stuck in the same old routine, day in and day out, can help boost their mood and energy. Also allowing employees to work from home occasionally can help alleviate unwanted stress as well.

Natural Light and Movement
During the winter months, there is a good chance the outdoor patios are not going to be used. However, access to natural light is more important now than ever. It is important to make sure that all employees have access to natural light. Whether it is at their assigned workstation or office, or in a flexible work area where they have the freedom to move to. Allowing employees access to the natural light when able to, will help to keep their circadian rhythms consistent and help reduce Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Most people in the workforce spend 90% of their days indoors. This unfortunately can mess with the human sleep cycle. However, there are ways to try and work around this. Circadian lighting systems can be installed to help trigger wakefulness. It is important to state that the light needed for our circadian rhythm is different from the required light levels for our visual system. Special LED lights are to be used if you want to increase wakefulness or help with sleep.

Reduce Acoustical Distractions
One of the most common complaints about a workplace environment is noise. Not only do people need visual privacy, but they also need acoustical privacy as well. Depending on the person and their personal preferences, noise can either increase productivity, or it can be distracting and decrease productivity. When people have control over the noise in their environment, they become less distracted by it. Sometimes noise distractions can require a longer period of time to refocus, which can cause frustration and mood swings, therefore reducing motivation to continue to work.

Connect Through Biophilia
As humans, we have a strong desire to be amongst nature. We have an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. Biophilic environments can improve stress recovery rates, lower blood pressure, improve cognitive function, enhance mental focus, decrease violence and criminal activity, elevate moods, and increase learning rates.

As stated previously, not everyone has access to rooftop patios, let alone all year round. One the easiest ways to incorporate biophilia throughout the office is through real plants, water, and windows that have views of nature. Another simple way to incorporate nature is through materials. Select materials and patterns that resemble nature and biomorphic forms. Displaying images of nature through artwork is another great way to connect to the outdoors.

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