Reflecting on Mental Health Awareness Week

4 min read
Published: 9 Mar 2021 9:30

How the office environment can support mental well-being

The world of work is increasingly digital and fast paced, and while this is brilliant for innovation, employees are at risk of becoming disconnected from nature and human interaction. This can lead to a sense of isolation and stress, both of which directly impact mental health.

A survey by MIND on well-being in the workplace revealed that organisations creating the right environments for their staff can have a transformative impact on employees’ health and well-being, as well as their job satisfaction and productivity levels.

At Office Space in Town (OSiT), we recognise this and are constantly evolving our offices to ensure that they support businesses in promoting the well-being and mental health needs of their employees.

Encourage connection

Often seen as a private emotion, loneliness can be underestimated, yet can have some of the most damaging effects on mental health. A survey by the Jo Cox Commission in 2017 revealed that nine million people in the UK are affected by loneliness in the workplace. Clearly businesses have a responsibility to attempt to address this issue.

Workplaces that encourage social interaction, through both additional provisions such as social events and communal spaces can play a role in supporting this. The day-to-day office environment can be a contributing factor. Introducing open-planned offices and meeting spaces can stimulate employee interaction, improving motivation, job satisfaction and sense of fulfilment in the workplace.

Nurture nature

An office which makes the best use of natural elements has been found to decrease health complaints and sick days, while boosting productivity and employee engagement, and even reducing blood pressure. Simply bringing plants into the workplace and incorporating biophillic design, has been found to improve well-being by 15%, reducing symptoms of ill health and fatigue while improving concentration.

Natural light can also support mental well-being in the workplace. Recent moves towards Smart Buildings can offer responsive and bespoke building services in separate areas of the building to optimise illumination, climate control, air quality, physical security and sanitation via one central control hub. For example, at Office Space in Town (OSiT’s) newest building in Blackfriars, opening this June, is the first UK installation of ‘dynamic glass’ – intelligent, electrochromic windows that automatically tint to maximize natural light and reduce heat and glare.

Other considerations that may seem insignificant can, in fact play a large role in employee well-being.  One such factor is air quality. It has been found that introducing air purifiers can increase the performance of cognitive tasks by 61%, reducing stress associated with poor mental health and improving overall job satisfaction.

Take a break

A recent study found that taking regular breaks is key to productivity as it allows the mind to re-focus and re-motivate, reducing stress and improving overall output. The average attention span for an adult is between 15 and 40 minutes, and studies have found that the most productive employees focus for 52 minutes, followed by a 17 minute break. While it can be hard to balance varying workloads, we also know that working in an environment which encourages staff to take a break allows vital time for reflection, reducing the impact of stress and encouraging creative thinking.

Location, Location, Location

The word ‘commute’ immediately triggers negative associations, and yet it is a normal part of everyday life. Time pressures, uncontrollable traffic and public transport failings have been found to increase feelings of anxiety and stress while affecting the ever-important work-life balance.  A recent study by the University of West England found respondents associated a commuting increase of 20 minutes as bad as taking a 19% pay cut.

There are a number of simple ways that businesses can alleviate pressures associated with commuting, such as introducing flexible working hours, encouraging cycle to work schemes and making showers and lockers available to cater for alternative modes of travel.

The report based on the findings of our ‘Commuter Survey’ (coming soon) provides crucial insight into how commuting is affecting the mental well-being of workers, and gives tips for businesses on how they can combat it.