Part 1 The Space
Business owners need to make money; that’s a given, however not at the expense of their staff. We all know mental health for businesses is becoming less of a taboo subject to discuss. Implementing an effective strategy to support and educate everyone from the top to the bottom is going to be key for any companies’ future.
Millennial’s are teaching us that our environment’s need to be creative, collaborative, inclusive and thoughtful places in which to thrive. Working for companies where the main investment is in staff morale, teamwork, diversity and solid company ethics, ups productivity and profitability. A no brainer!
When I enter any workspace I call upon my past experience as a 3 dimensional spacial designer. A poorly designed space can kill innovation, performance, creativity and divide people. All workspaces should reflect the companies’ brand, values and culture. Workplace wellbeing is affected by environment so any changes must be collaborative, engage employees, gaining feedback about the space and thus reducing resistance to any changes that may be required.
The flow of a space can have a real affect, positive and negative on how we navigate the workplace. Stresses and frustrations arise if printers, telephone systems, lighting or colours are out of date. Employees disengage with their tasks, which slows down productivity and chips away at profitability.
Desk Ratio and cable management are important for flow and creating calm within a space. I recently visited a company’s office to work with one of their teams, the cable management was non-existent.; a jumble of wires creeping across the walls and carpet, like a nest of vipers. This created not only a serious trip hazard but also visual chaos, which for some was adding to their anxiety. If the workplace is clean, smells great and feels like a positive space, moral is boosted and an increase in connectivity between individuals becomes visible. Teams should feel safe, that their individuality is allowed to flourish, whilst meeting the needs of the business.
The World Green Building Council, adamant supporters of people’s wellbeing, conducted a study in 2015 in which they discovered that fresh air is a key component to improving employee wellbeing. Who knew that a green well ventilated office can improve cognitive scores, add 146 extra minutes to a nights sleep and improve performance by at least 8%? See more here at Better places for people.
I am a great advocate of plants in the workplace to not only increase air quality but also provide a connection between the outdoors and us. Plants work tirelessly to absorb the carbon dioxide around us and release clean oxygen. When these green jewels are threaded through the workplace, they improve the wellbeing and overall health of staff. Sick building syndrome, which shows it’s self amongst employees in the following guises, can then become a thing of the past.
- Eye infections
- Sore throats
- Dry coughs
- Itchy skin
If you have ever worked in an office where the phone constantly rings, loud colleagues chatter next to your desk or a radio station plays nothing you like, your bodies’ stressors become heightened. Noise causes internal stress and affects our physiology to a point where concentration is interrupted, we are taken off tasks and have an inability to filter information or communicate effectively with others. As cognitive performance diminishes, sleep problems arise from fatigue and job dissatisfaction follows close behind.
Open or Closed
Open planned offices can use surfaces that actively lower the amplification of sound to help with the cacophony. Desks shouldn’t have a constant stream of people passing them, stopping to chat whilst someone else is trying to work. There needs to be a balance of open and closed places giving employees the choice of environment whilst promoting wellbeing.
Creating engaging workspaces and exhibition environments was always the best part of my job. Working collaboratively with people who would inhabit the space long after I had gone. Using a pop of colour can instantly change how we respond and interact with a space. A splash of yellow or orange can promote creativity; Green increases relaxation and reduces stress. Touches of blue can help with clarity and focus, red can increase heart rate and brain activity so is best used as an accent colour. Have a look around your workspace and see how you can improve your relationship with it to feel like you and your staff are invigorated.
We all know how good it feels to top up on vitamin D and breathe in fresh air. So walking or cycling to work where possible is a perfect way to double up on our wellbeing and improve our mental health. I have found that by using the park and ride in my town, my day has improved 10 fold. I read on the bus for 15 minutes each way, smile smugly at the cars in traffic congestion as we glide past in the bus lane and am saving money on town parking charges. The British Council for Offices study revealed that 45% of workers complained about how stressful their journeys to work were. Can you change your commute and arrive at work more relaxed and ready to embrace the day? More information about office wellbeing can be found here.
Five A Day
Being a good role model and encouraging your staff to eat their five a day and stay hydrated isn’t easy to do. The process has to start with a small steps investment program. The results will be measurable within weeks and visible in the staff demeanour. Their brains and bodies will be alert and awake increasing productivity and healthy habits. One company I work with have a free bowl of fruit that is replenished regularly and a water cooler. The directors make a point of being in the space, eating fruit and taking a glass of water whilst chatting with staff. This small change is really is paying off for them all. Having access to a kitchen is great for preparing lunches, teas and coffee etc. Coupled with a relaxed breakout space or seating area will allow staff to change scene, unwind and maybe encourage some headspace too!
Mind and Body
Mindfulness is a simple activity in itself but hard to master and sometimes to make time for, however the investment in making the time will pay dividends. Employees could be encouraged to take mindful breaks from their desks. For every 20 minutes worked take a 5-minute break and for 40 minutes of continuous work its 10 minutes to change state, relax and then return to your task. Moving has additional benefits for the body as well as the brain; fewer back problems, stiffness or muscle pain. There is plenty of office furniture that encourages people to move more, like standing desks, sit stand stools / chairs or balance balls report higher energy levels and greater focus.
Understanding that changes are important for all of our wellbeing is the first step. Implementing it is another! I hope that this has given you some food for thought to nourish your business, whether you employ people or are self-employed!
Watch this space for Wellbeing – Part 2 The People.