The OECD, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, reports that 18.5% of Irish people have a mental health disorder and the ESRI reported that work-related stress has doubled in the past five years.
Coined as “psychosocial risks” by Helen Russell, high demand from workplaces can contribute to this stress. Improving an employee’s well-being and mental health can start with a simply friendlier environment and negate low morale.
Being aware of the office’s environment, such as proper heating in the winter, can make a difference in an employee’s stress levels as well as offering personal space, private areas, good ventilation, and natural lighting.
Although the open-office concept has become popular, its inevitably distracting nature can hurt an employee’s work and cause them to stray away from collaboration.
“Contrary to common belief, the volume of face-to-face interaction decreased significantly (by about 70 percent) with an associated increase in electronic interaction,” according to a study entitled ‘The Impact of the “Open” Workspace on Human Collaboration’. “In short, rather than prompting increasingly vibrant face-to-face collaboration, open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from office-mates and interact instead over email and IM.”
As distractions surround a worker, stress and poor performance goes up, while productivity goes down. Although some companies fully utilize collaborative spaces, it’s important to provide a space where one can get away and focus on their own work.
Another improvement offices can make is providing adequate lighting. Shorter days and longer nights in the winter have long been tied to poor mental health.
Psychologist Dr. Sarah O’Neill says that seasonal changes can result in absenteeism and lack of motivation. She believes that employers can take simple steps to ensure company morale stays high by making sure lights are on before employees get to the workplace, make sure workstations are close to windows, encourage staff to leave the space during lunch, and offer healthy food options to curb comfort eating.