Stress in the workplace

What can we do to help?

Causes of Stress

Before we dive into the remedy for a stress-free office place, lets define some of the main areas that cause stress. We are not saying that all the points listed below are solvable but general improvement will have a positive effect on a business’s productivity levels.

  • Workload
  • Financial concern
  • Poor communication
  • Poor lighting, sound and air quality.
  • Office clutter
  • Lack of control

Reconnecting to your senses

It is important when working in an office space to have full control over your senses and to avoid unnecessary stress, as in most cases, stress can be caused by noise levels and quality of light.

Noise levels in the office cause physiological responses such as raised heart rate and blood pressure. One relatable way of explaining this is how the sound of a dentist’s drill makes you feel in the waiting room.  Working against these responses means that you must work harder to complete day to day tasks, increasing levels of fatigue and decreasing productivity.

Some may say to cancel out noise to  “just wear headphones ” however, by doing this it places the sound closer to your inner ear, increasing noise levels by 8-10 decibels. Over time this damages the small hairs in your cochlea (inner ear) which are responsible for carrying sound to your brain.

So how do we avoid stress caused by noise levels?

  • Provide quiet spaces. Give your employees a space where they can be alone and in silence. It’s all about giving them a choice of which senses they use, a neutral zone – free of distracting smells and noises.
  • Provide loud spaces also as in contrast this encourages employees to move away from their desk. This can be achieved by providing a cafe space, games room or even acoustic phone booths.
  • Integrating acoustics into your office can offer a breath of fresh air in more way than one. It gives an employee an aesthetically pleasing place to work and provides balance to noise levels. Both aspects lending a hand to productivity.

As well as sound quality it is also important to be conscious of providing a certain level of natural light in an office environment.

Natural light is built up by using the full spectrum and dynamic of colour, it also changes throughout the day syncing our bio-rhythms and regulates metabolism. This increases the quality of sleep we have at night.

Fluorescent artificial lighting samples a small amount of the spectrum to emulate white light, which is far from the blue healthy light that we need. It is no accident that we feel our worst under fluorescent lights as they lack the queues that natural lighting provides us.

It is important to utilise the daylight hours by getting out of the office on breaks and to make use of windows to illuminate an office.

Benefits of office plantation (Biophilic Hypothesis)

Biophilic design acknowledges the human urge to affiliate ourselves with other forms of life. It displays the sociological and psychological benefits of incorporating plants into a working office. It can help unburden our cognitive system and increase the rate at which we complete tasks.

They claim that patients in hospital who have plants in the same room are supposed to show increased rates of recovery compared to those who are not exposed to plants / window looking out to plants.

As workplace well-being and mindfulness become more important, we expect to see an increased trend in architectural biophilic designs. Alongside plants in the office we can also incorporate natural materials such as wood and stone, embrace colour and have natural light sources. All of these will help in lowering the stress levels and increasing employee moral within a workplace.