When designing your company’s office, you should consider the way in which it impacts employees’ stress levels. According to a report by the American Psychological Association (APA), work is the leading cause of stress in the United States.
If your office is poorly designed and fails to offer a relaxing and enjoyable working environment, employees will likely experience greater stress. Over time, this can result in lower productivity levels, higher turnover rate, and even more on-the-job accidents. You can lower the risk of problems such as these, however, by creating a stress-free office for your employees.
Allow Employees to Personalize Workstations
Whether your office has 10 workstations or 100 workstations, you should allow – and even encourage – employees to personalize them. Research has shown that personalized office workstations typically result in higher employee satisfaction and well-being levels.
Personalized workstations create a stronger emotional connection to the respective employee. After personalizing their workstation with framed photos, stickers, and other decorations, the employee will have his or her own unique environment in which to work. Non-personalized workstations, on the other hand, project a bland and generic working environment that offers little or no emotional connection to employees.
Upgrade Workstations With Ergonomic Office Chairs
Don’t make the mistake of choosing cheap, low-quality office chairs for your employees’ workstations. It may allow you to save a couple bucks on your company’s furniture expenses, but it will cost your company later down the road in the form of highly stressed employees.
According to a report by the University of California, Berkeley, nearly two in three office workers experience pain or physical discomfort caused by sitting. Office jobs require workers to sit for multiple consecutive hours, with some office workers sitting for eight or more hours during a typical workday. If you use low-quality chairs in your workstations, your employees are more likely to experience pain or discomfort, which often leads to stress. Instead, choose high-quality office chairs featuring an ergonomic design.
Design a Dedicated Breakroom
Assuming your office doesn’t already have one, design a dedicated breakroom where employees can go to drink beverages, eat snacks or meals, converse or simply relax while on break. It’s difficult – though not necessarily impossible – for employees to perform these activities at their workstation. And even if an employee can eat snacks or converse at their workstation, he or she would probably prefer the quieter and more relaxing environment of a dedicated breakroom.
To take full advantage of the stress-relieving benefits of a dedicated breakroom, consider the following tips:
- Add small dining tables and chairs so that employees can comfortably eat and drink.
- Invest in a coffee maker, ensuring that your breakroom is also supplied with plenty of coffee, creamer, sugar, alternative sweetener, stirring sticks, cups, and other related items.
- If there’s enough space for it, add a large couch for increased relaxation.
- Decorate the walls with bright, energy-invoking colors like yellow, red, aqua blue, lime green, or tangerine.
- Encourage employees to label their name on any foods or beverages that they store in the breakroom.
- Add magazines or board games to keep employees occupied until their break is over.
- Ensure power outlets are easily accessible and not obstructed or concealed by furniture.
- Ask your employees for input on what furniture or amenities they’d like to see in the breakroom.
- Keep your breakroom clean and free of clutter.
Create a Health and Wellness Program
Another way to promote a stress-free office is to create a health and wellness program. Also known simply as a workplace wellness program, a health and wellness program is a voluntary program that encourages employees to make smarter choices regarding their personal health, such as participating in group exercises, smoking cessation programs or nutrition course. In exchange for joining your company’s health and wellness program, you can reward employees with perks such as cheaper health insurance premiums, free exercise equipment, or free gift cards.
According to Forbes, 87% of employees want a healthier working environment – and one way to provide your employees with a healthier environment is to offer a health and wellness program. But not many companies put forth the effort to create and offer a health and wellness program. They assume it’s an unnecessary expense that doesn’t offer any real value.
Creating a health and wellness program, however, can offer several benefits for your company. Employees will feel happier and more energized, resulting in higher productivity levels. And because stress and health are directly connected, employees who participate in your company’s health and wellness program will likely experience lower stress levels.
Maintain a Comfortable Climate
What’s the average temperature in your office? If it’s abnormally hot or cold, it may create a stressful environment for your employees. Employees can add or remove layers of clothing while working, but this isn’t always enough to beat excessively hot or cold office temperatures. If an employee becomes uncomfortably hot or cold, his or her stress levels will rise. So, at what temperature should you set the thermostat in your office?
There’s a growing debate over what’s the “ideal” office temperature. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) states that 68 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit is an ideal range for a comfortable and safe working environment, whereas a study conducted by researchers at Cornell University found that higher temperatures can yield better results for employers and their employees. Specifically, Cornell University researchers discovered that raising the office temperature from 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit resulted in 44% higher typing accuracy.
While 77 degrees Fahrenheit may sound pretty toasty, it may prove beneficial for employees who perform data entry work. With that said, it’s probably best to start at a lower temperature of around 73 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and depending on feedback from your employees, either raise or lower it to achieve a comfortable climate that eliminates stress and promotes productivity.
Embrace Employee Recognition
Employee recognition is a key concept used by many of the leading Fortune 500 companies to retain talent. It’s a broad term that refers to acknowledging, or recognizing an employee’s hard work. Statistics show that nearly two in three employees who work at a company without an employee recognition program aren’t satisfied with their job. And with low job satisfaction, these employees tend to be more stressed than their counterparts who work at companies with an employee recognition program.
There are different ways to structure an employee recognition program. You can create an employee-of-the-month program, for example, in which a single hardworking employee each month is honored and rewarded. If your company’s operations revolve around sales, you can recognize the top-selling employee each week.
Alternatively, you can create a more informal employee recognition program that involves recognizing each of your company’s hardworking employees in person. Regardless, you should show your appreciation to these employees by thanking them for their exceptional work ethics. By embracing employee recognition, employees won’t feel like their hard work is going unnoticed. As a result, they’ll feel more relaxed and less stressed.
Reduce Noise Levels
Frequent exposure to loud noise can, not surprisingly, contribute to stress. If your office suffers from constant loud noise, it will distract workers from their job while causing their stress levels to increase in the process. According to an Oxford Economics study, 63% of employees say there are distracted by loud noise. It’s nearly impossible to create a silent office, but there are ways to reduce noise levels.
First, consider setting volume standards for computers and devices. If an employee has his or her computer turned up to full volume, other workers will probably hear it. However, if you require employees to use a specific volume setting, you’ll create a quieter and more peaceful office.
Second, use office furniture to absorb and dampen loud noise. It’s a little-known fact that using the right type of furniture – and placing it in the right location – can create a quieter office. Wood furniture, for instance, is typically more effective at absorbing sound than metal furniture. If there’s a specific area in your office where noise is a problem, try surrounding it with wood furniture, such as bookshelves and desks. Once in place, the wood furniture will absorb some of the sound vibrations to create a quieter environment for your employees.
Aromatherapy has dozens of practical uses, one of which is relaxation. The general belief is that exposure to certain aromas triggers the release of stress-reducing hormones and chemicals in the body, including serotonin and oxytocin. When a person is exposed to one of these aromas, his or her body will produce more hormones and chemicals that counter the effects of stress.
To take advantage of aromatherapy in your office, use a diffuser with scented oil. There are two main types of diffusers: reed and electric. Reed diffusers consist of jars or vases with sticks of reed. You pour the scented oil into the bottom of the jar or vase, at which point the reed will soak up and release the oil into the surrounding air. Electric diffusers, on the other hand, spray the oil as a light mist into the air. By adding the right aroma or aromas to your office, employees’ stress levels may drop.
Some of the top aromatherapy oils used for relaxation and stress reduction include the following:
Offer Private Workstations
Lack of privacy is a common problem in the modern office. In the past, offices were designed primarily using cubicles. While cubicles are still found in many offices, they’ve been largely replaced with open office designs, which lack the privacy of their cubicle counterparts.
If your office uses an open design, consider creating private workstations for your employees. Even with the widespread adoption of open office designs, research shows that employees prefer working in an office with private workstations. When employees are forced to work in an open office, they’ll feel like their every move is being watched – something that can cause increased stress.
You don’t have to necessarily use crammed and congested cubicles, but you should provide your employees with private workstations. In each workstation, add portioning walls to create a sense of privacy. With portioning walls raised above their workstation, employees will feel more relaxed knowing that they aren’t being watched every minute of their workday. Of course, employees will appreciate the added privacy, and it will probably show in the form of higher productivity levels.
Allowing your company’s employees to bring and use their own devices such as laptops or tablets from home will promote a stress-free office. Known as bring your own device (BYOD), it’s become a common trend in the office.
Supporting BYOD can pay off for your company in multiple ways. For starters, you won’t have to purchase as many devices for your employees, allowing your company to save money. BYOD also eases the burden of training employees on how to use a device. If an employee brings a personal device to use in the office, he or she is probably already familiar with it, in which case you won’t have to train the employee.
Employees are often more satisfied and less stressed when they are allowed to use their own device. According to a survey cited by ZDNet, 61% of employees say they are happier when working for a company that supports BYOD. And when employees are happy, they are usually less stressed.
If you’re going to support BYOD in your office, though, you should create a cybersecurity plan to mitigate the risk of data breaches. While BYOD offers numerous benefits, it often paves the way for data breaches. Personal devices usually have little or no security measures, so any data stored on them is more likely to be lost or stolen. You can still support BYOD in your office, but you should create a cybersecurity plan to protect against data breaches.
Working in any environment can cause stress, and an office is no exception. As an employer, you can control the atmosphere to which your employees are exposed. By following these tips, you’ll achieve a stress-free office that resonates with your employees.
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.