As this year’s Mental Health Week gets underway there’s an important question to ask – is your workplace making your employees thrive or just survive?
Government figures suggest that one in four of us will experience mental ill health during the course of our lives and widespread research shows that the environments we occupy have a significant impact on how we feel about ourselves and others.
95% of office workers recognise this connection, yet just over half say their physical workspace does not have a positive impact on their mental health (51%), wellbeing (49%) mood (47%), or productivity (43%). Unsurprisingly, two thirds of employees have ‘poor’ or ‘below average’ mental wellbeing and stress is a significant contributor.
For businesses keen to invest in the emotional resilience and wellbeing of their workforce, it is time to ensure that the workplace actively promotes rather than discourages positive mental, emotional and physical health.
It’s useful to start by looking at the services and support systems that wellbeing-minded employers can offer. Career mentors, workplace buddies, on-site access to gyms or health experts, financial guidance, counsellors, wellbeing-leave and even organised social nights with colleagues, all help to create a culture of support where employees are encouraged to discuss mental health without fear of judgement.
Organisations embarking on an office move or refurbishment have the perfect opportunity to embrace wellbeing by putting it at the heart of the redesign. In addition to ensuring the basic requirements for natural light and good air quality are met (although plenty of organisations underestimate how important this is to wellbeing), due consideration should also be given to noise transfer (which can be one of the modern office’s most stressful components) and providing well-designed spaces that suit different working styles and tasks, such as areas for quiet reflection, collaboration and socialising.
Greater adoption of agile working is also effective in combat poor mental health, as it removes the shackles of fixed-place working and empowers employees to choose how, when and where work is done. Agility relies on heightened investment in workplace technologies – be that software, hardware, meeting room technology or the cloud – which can help to eradicate one of the leading causes of workplace stress; poor, slow or out of date technology.
Visual stimulus should be considered too, as colourful, artistic and visually-interesting workspaces can help to calm, motivate, inspire and nurture employees. Biophilic design is very powerful in this context, for it reconnects employees with the outdoors through the use of nature-inspired materials, colours, artwork and in some cases even sounds, and can help to combat stress.
Mental Health Awareness Week provides an urgent wake up call for employers – it’s time to address what people need in order to be happy, healthy and productive. If reading this makes you realise your workspace is the opposite – with a stressful and unfriendly workplace culture and an environment that does little to inspire, motivate or support how work is done – then it’s probably only allowing your employees to survive. Imagine what more you could achieve if they were able to thrive!
To find out more about workplace wellbeing and how to write a wellbeing agenda, download our Workplace Wellbeing whitepaper, which is full of guidance and advice: