Is Your Working Environment Contributing To Stress & Anxiety?

Work Related Stress

15.4 million working days were lost to work-related stress between 2017-2018, according to a report by the Health and Safety Executive, which demonstrates that the recognition of World Mental Health Day and International Stress Awareness Week shown by businesses in the UK in recent months is for very good reason. Potential stressors include issues around job content and its demands, lack of support, organisational culture. Bad management practices and the physical work environment are also factors. If these issues are excessive and prolonged, they can cause ‘Burnout’, a phenomenon recognised by the World Health Organisation caused by chronic workplace stress.

A workplace can have a positive or negative affect on your day.

The Impact of Your Environment

laptop

For many of us, the workplace is where we spend most of our waking hours, and its environment can have a big influence on our mood and mental state. I’ve experienced first-hand the impact of how the design of an office can affect me at work; both negatively and positively.

My Old Working Environment

It’s just over a year that I joined my current employer. The environment in which I now work has made a huge difference to my head space from Monday to Friday. When I reflect back to previous workdays, there seemed to be a recurring chain of events; energy levels are high following a brisk walk to work in the morning, backed up by a couple of coffees and I’m feeling like I’m starting the day in the right way!

Lunch time rolls around to which I’m still at my desk, checking emails or taking calls in between bites. At this point, I haven’t really moved from my desk since I walked through the door at 8am. I’m becoming aware of my posture, attempting to sit up and not allow my shoulders to round forward, but the fact I’ve been virtually inactive for four to five hours means that I’m starting to feel uncomfortable. I would try to power through the afternoon and hit a wall in the classic 4pm slump. My back and legs are starting to ache, my energy levels have dropped massively, and disengagement starts to set in.

I start to question how I’m going to have the energy to go the gym after work – and I’ve still got two hours to go.

As soon as 6pm strikes and I get some fresh air as I leave the office, movement in my legs and a change of stimulus, I’m suddenly wide awake and raring to get to my gym class. This is strange because, two hours ago, I was having to muster all my strength to stay productive for the final part of my working day. It’s hard to decline the sweet treats being passed around the office as people attempt a sugar rush to see them through.

A New Approach to the Working Environment

 

Plants

Fast forward to now and my day looks and feels completely different. Stepping through the door of the office, I’m greeted by a burst of plants and moss walls. This instantly reconnects me with nature. These elements, called biophilic design, are proven by researchers at the University of Exeter, to boost productivity by up to 15% and having notable benefits to well-being.

Laptop under my arm, I can choose the right setting for the work activity I need to do, whether that be at my sit-stand desk, in a quiet focus room, more informally in the ‘snug’, or at the high desk collaborative space. This ‘Activity Based Working’ means I have the flexibility to vary my workstation. This allows my environment to add to my work performance, and to be suitably inspired by wherever I’m sitting –or standing.

Each area has been purposefully designed with a specific look and feel and with particular functions in mind. Lunch times are shared with colleagues, in which ever area appeals that day. Legs are stretched by walking around the pleasant paths surrounded by fields of the farm at which we’re based.

6 Tips to Reduce Stress and Anxiety in your Workday

Safe to say my energy (and dare I say happiness) levels are consistently topped up throughout the day. Being able to move around the office, to change posture, to be stimulated by different colours and textures contribute to my wellbeing. Engaging and interacting with different colleagues in settings that befit the topic of discussion is also beneficial. Being in a space where the design of the office is conducive to a creative, collaborative culture helps all of us.

Whilst you may not be able to influence the design of your office, you are able to take steps towards maintaining your engagement in your work, building relationships with your colleagues, and most importantly, keeping your well-being levels high:

  • Exercise before, during or after work; try cycling to the office, using your lunch break to practice yoga (even at your desk!), or a stress-reducing post-work gym session. Movement is really important. Save the awkward lift silence and take the stairs!
  • Give your desk a break; where possible, walk over and talk to the colleague who you’d ordinarily email.  Don’t eat in front of your computer. Find a space – hopefully shared by your fellow team members – to recharge, recuperate and refuel during lunch.
  • Breathe it in; stepping outside and getting some fresh air. Feel the sun or the chilly wind on your skin and take 5 mins out of the confinements of your office. It can be hugely re-energising.
  • Connect with nature; if walking outside just isn’t an option, make sure you bring the outside in. Plants, moss walls, natural light, fresh air, even pictures of nature have been proven to improve mood, productivity and well-being.
  • Stay social; studies show the happiest employees are ones who have good work
    relationships and collaborate with 5 or more people in their office in any given day.
  • Fuel your day; the foundations that help you do anything well, are to eat and drink healthily. Make sure you are hydrated. Reduce processed foods and meal-prep where you can. Fresh is typically best.

 

Jim Nayak

 

Jim Nayak
Relationship Manager at AMH Projects

 

AMH Projects are workplace design and build specialists, working with organisations in the South West, South Wales, Midlands and M4 corridor.

For more information on how to help reduce stress and anxiety through workplace design, please visit www.amh-projects.co.uk

 

 

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About The Author

Sharon Critchlow

Sharon Critchlow is a Wellbeing Advocate, speaker and facilitator at Discover Your Bounce for Business. Passionate about people being the best they can be she is a Time To Change Champion for mental health and holds a Masters level qualification in strategic coaching for performance. Sharon is a qualified accountant and has 20 years experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. www.discoveryourbounce.com www.time-to-change.org.uk