Workplace design and worker’s mental wellbeing

January 2019

After the rush of the Christmas holidays, January can be a difficult month. The festivities have ended. It’s cold and a long wait until pay day. It’s little wonder that Monday 21st January has been adopted as “the gloomiest day of the year.”

Ziggy and Strut

Lots of people get depressed in winter, or suffer from the "winter blues". The medical name for this winter depression is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and despite the fact that millions of us say we've suffered a winter-related low mood, it can sometimes feel as though the winter blues is just a myth. But there's sound scientific evidence to support the idea that the season can affect our moods.

Most scientists believe that the problem is related to the way the body responds to daylight. It's thought that SAD sufferers are affected by shorter daylight hours in the winter. They produce higher melatonin, causing lethargy and symptoms of depression. If you're going through a bout of winter blues, lack of daylight is probably playing a part.

The cost to businesses

According to a recent UK survey, over two-fifths (44%) of employees say winter time has a negative effect on their mental wellbeing. 51% of respondents believe it adversely affects their mood and 30% state winter affects their productivity. Over a third of respondents (35%) even identify themselves as suffering or having suffered SAD and 76% have experienced or are currently experiencing stress in the workplace.

During the Winter months, most 9-5 workers leave the house to travel into the office when it is dark outside in the morning, and travel home when it is dark after the working day has ended. So the only daylight office workers see for 5 days a week is when we are at work, which can have a negative impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing. So how can effective workplace design help to combat some of these ill effects?

Workplace Design

The office environment has a vital role in helping to tackle the Winter blues. Simple office-based factors such as exposure to natural light and adding some colour and artwork to the office can be very important in supporting people’s mental health and wellbeing at work. Wherever possible, it’s advised to introduce more natural lighting into the office, reconfigure seating arrangements if necessary and remove any obstacles preventing sunlight from entering the workplace.

Many offices are also choosing to use artwork to enhance the aesthetic appeal of their office. Given that workers will spend at least 7 hours per day in the office, the better the area looks, the better people working in that space will feel. Working in a dull space is unlikely to get the most from employees.

Another great way to introduce colour into the workplace is with office furniture. Colourful office furniture and office breakout spaces or quiet areas help to ease mental health issues such as anxiety, as well as boosting feelings of personal creativity. Equipping the office with social furniture and re-thinking how space is currently used to create a bespoke quiet area can significantly enhance your team’s wellness

A Healthier Work Environment

Of course, not every business has space for a breakout area or quiet zone within the modern office environment, however you can still create social areas by making existing communal areas such as the office canteen or kitchen more welcoming with comfy seating and more relaxed, homely design.

This is exactly what office furniture manufacturer Dams have been working on, by designing modern, appealing furniture that is not only functional, but that also has a certain level of visual stimulation and interest to get the most from employees and ensure they perform at their best. Two such products are the new Strut café dining seating and the Ziggy meeting booths.

A simple design with a chic edge, the Strut family of multi-purpose seating has a solution for a variety of environments. Multiple base options and 9 shell colours make Strut the perfect, customisable choice for canteen and dining environments, guest seating, or meeting spaces. These sleek chairs and stools are both easy on the eye and easy on the body.

Ziggy is available as a 2 or 4 person meeting booth and has been designed to bring people together in a place where ideas, insight and inspiration can be shared. The fully upholstered cushion and back delivers comfort and support with a modern design to create quiet space in today's collaborative, open office or canteen areas and offering a private place for employees to sit and relax, or for teams to meet in seclusion.

In conclusion

In 2017/18 mental health issues (including depression, stress, anxiety) accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases (HSE 2017/2018) which resulted in 15.4 million working days being lost due to this condition at a cost to the UK economy of over £7.5 billion.

We would always advocate seeking professional help for anybody suffering with mental illness, however in a time when the emphasis on mental health and well-being is at an all-time high, there is more and more call for businesses to play a small part by nurturing a happier, healthier work environment in our professional lives too.

Office design doesn’t have to be boring and functional. In fact, adding a little extra visual interest by way of practical furniture with aesthetic appeal can make a great difference to those who work in the office, as well as occasional visitors. Whether opting for a contemporary design, office furniture products such as upholstered soft seating or multi-coloured dining chairs, or even something a little more traditional, the undeniable benefits are sure to be enjoyed by all.



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