How Office Design and Layout Can Impact Mental Health

People Sitting At Desk In Well-Lit Office By Windows

A profitable business stems from happy and healthy employees—in fact, studies show that employees are most productive when their physical and mental well-beings are taken care of.

Your employees spend a great deal of time in the office. More and more research points to the fact that an office's design can positively impact its employees' mental health. While no office is perfect, there are a few key elements to keep in mind when creating a comfortable and productive environment for your team.

Daylight and lighting

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related the change of seasons. Typically affecting people in fall and winter, SAD is thought to be caused by the reduced hours of sunlight. One way to help employees who struggle with SAD is to provide access to natural light in the office.

Even for those not clinically diagnosed with SAD, providing adequate lighting within the workplace can have positive health benefits.

This may be an easy fix if your office has access to many windows—focus on arranging furniture for increased light exposure and use blinds that eliminate glare without blocking out too much light. If you're in an office that lacks access to natural light, consider implementing softer lighting that doesn't strain your eyesight. LED lighting creates a more natural feel than fluorescent lighting, and is safer and more energy-efficient.

Air quality

Woman Smiling Sitting at Desk with Plants

Poor air quality can contribute to illness, which is already a common concern for many employees. As a facility manager, you are often responsible for the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. Keep in mind that poor indoor air quality can lead to respiratory problems, which impact both mental and physical health.

If you’re in the beginning stages of selecting a new office, stick with higher ceilings and be sure that the HVAC system is up to code.

If you’re in an existing workspace, be sure that any machines that emit exhaust are properly ventilated—a layout incorporating print rooms for photocopiers and laser printers will significantly improve the office air quality. Be sure to select carpets, finishes and adhesives that don’t give off odors or irritants. Office plants can also help keep the air fresh and clean.

Noise

One of the most important factors to consider when planning your office layout is the way noise will travel through the space. Noise from speech, telephones and machines can disrupt employees' focus and lower their productivity. Several studies have shown that excessive noise contributes to stress, fatigue and poor cognitive performance.

So what can you do to positively impact employees' mental health in a noisy office? First, consider the layout. Open offices are notorious for noise, so think about installing barriers, private offices or cubicles. Sound-absorbing materials, such as carpets, help to reduce noise. White noise machines are also an option.

Workplace density

Modern office with people working at laptops and table

Providing your employees with personal space is a good step to ensuring positive mental health in the office. When spaces are too crowded, an employee may become agitated and stressed. Workplace density can negatively impact productivity and concentration. Make sure that you're using your space strategically, and that employees have access to both quiet areas where they can work privately, and designated breakout areas for creative collaboration.

Using space management tools is the most efficient way to manage your office layout for optimal productivity and well-being.

By tracking your entire space in one system, you can ensure that your office is being used efficiently without getting overcrowded.

While not all offices can provide perfect lighting, air quality, noise levels and density, taking small steps to promote a healthy workspace will have a strong impact on your employees' mental health. Above all, by showing your employees that you value their health and well-being, you will ensure a positive and caring work culture that benefits all aspects of your company.

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