Workplace design can combat ill effects of winter on workers’ mental wellbeing

Peldon Rose project for TNS UKThe January blues are well documented but aside from the usual clichés which abound around this time of year, there is some evidence of the impact of winter on people’s mental health and wellbeing, According to a new survey from Peldon Rose over two-fifths (44 percent) of employees say winter has a negative effect on their mental wellbeing, half (51 percent) believe it adversely affects their mood and 30 percent state winter affects their productivity. Over a third of respondents (35 percent) even identify themselves as suffering or having suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a type of depression that becomes more severe in the winter and three-quarters (76 percent) have experienced or are currently experiencing stress in the workplace. But the report concludes, effective workplace design can help combat some of these ill effects.

Workers believe the office environment in particular has a vital role in helping to tackle the January blues with office-based factors such as exposure to natural light (90 percent), quiet and private areas (76 percent) and social and collaborative workspaces (75 percent) all rated as significantly more important in supporting mental health than traditional, tailored workplace benefits such as health insurance (62 percent) and gym memberships (58 percent).

Only 29 percent of people reported feeling that the company values their opinion in the workplace environment and only 26 percent believed their workplace has a positive effect on their mental health, and only 30 percent believe their company values their opinion on the workplace environment

In terms of supporting mental health an overwhelming number of respondents thought that a supportive line management (93 percent), exposure to natural light (90 percent), open culture (81 percent), quiet and private workspaces (76 percent) and social and collaborative workspaces (75 percent) were most important in supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

Three-quarters (73 percent) say greater involvement in decisions about their workplace would have a positive impact on their motivation, mood (70 percent), productivity (70 percent) and mental wellbeing (56 percent)

The report lists four New Year resolutions businesses should make to boost employee wellbeing:

  • Natural lighting: Nine in ten (90 percent) consider exposure to natural light as important in supporting their mental health and wellbeing at work, but only 63 percent currently have it in their workplace.  Wherever possible introduce more natural lighting into the office, reconfigure seating arrangements if necessary and remove any obstacles preventing sunlight from entering the workplace
  • Quiet areas: Three-quarters (76 percent) say quiet and private workspaces support their wellbeing at work, 82 percent value them – but only 40 percent of people have them in their workplace.  Create a bespoke quiet area by re-thinking how space is currently used, designate part of the office a quiet area or reallocate a specific meeting room as the ‘quiet zone’
  • Social and communal areas: 77 percent value them and 75 percent think they’re important to support mental health, but only 51 percent have them.  Create social areas by making existing communal areas such as the kitchen more welcoming with comfy seating and more relaxed, homely design
  • Inclusivity: Include everyone in decisions being made about the workplace; greater employee involvement will have a positive impact on staff productivity (70 percent) and mental wellbeing (56 percent)

Jitesh Patel, Chief Executive, Peldon Rose, said:  “Thousands of office workers are struggling with their mental health, motivation and productivity this winter, but our survey reveals that there are steps businesses can take to try prevent SAD and the winter blues developing in the first place.

“The first step is for businesses to engage with their staff via change management and getting them more involved in decisions about their workplace environment. By doing this it will boost their motivation, mood and productivity.”

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