The Link Between Work Environment and Mental Health

On average, you spend 40 to 50 hours a week at work. According to experts around the world, the environment in which you work has a significant impact on your mental health. 

Office Design/Floor Plan Impacts Mental Health

One study in 2011 showed how the design of the workplace affects mental health and overall well-being. After all, the average person spends 33% of their waking hours each week in the workplace. Therefore, the physical environment impacts everything from mood and happiness to focus and productivity. The findings of this study are that good conditions within the workplace allow employees to be effective, and making investments into the physical environment to create such conditions offers immediate returns. 

One of the biggest issues for business owners is choosing between the various office spaces. At any time, especially in the big cities, there are hundreds of different office spaces for rent. Some offer the more traditional office floor plans with private offices and boardrooms, while others offer a more open floor plan that encourages collaboration and teamwork. Another option seems to be gaining popularity, and that’s co-working spaces. These spaces are not dedicated to one specific business type but have a variety of businesses and employees. Research shows that choosing one environment over another can significantly impact productivity.  

Psychologist Matthew Davis looked at over 100 different studies regarding the workplace environment in 2011. He found that while an open floor plan does encourage a “symbolic sense of organization,” they do more damage than good. They are a distraction for workers, which reduces productivity, satisfaction, and creative thinking. 

When compared with traditional office floor plans, it was discovered that those working in open office floor plans are forced to deal with uncontrolled interactions with co-workers, which leads to less concentration and motivation and increased stress levels. Research indicates that while some can deal with noise better than others, it is generally distracting. One study on cognitive control indicated that habitual multitaskers are more likely to be interrupted, and it takes longer for them to recover from those interruptions. If these individuals work in an environment with poor noise control or an open floor plan, they are likely to be easily distracted and underperform. 

Experts tell us that millennials, which represents most of the current workforce, are natural multi-taskers. This isn’t something that employers will be able to do anything about. Therefore, something must be done about the workplace environment to decrease distractions. Many business owners have concluded that offices with cubicles and private offices are much better than those with open floor plans. 

Décor Impacts Mental Health

One study in 2006 by the Department of Health Working Group of Arts & Health in the United Kingdom indicated that art impacts the mental health of patients in the hospital and staff members. Another study in 2010 by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine looked closer at this issue. 

The report states this: “The fact that patients frequently express a preference for landscape and nature scenes is consistent with this observation and evolutionary psychological theories which predict positive emotional responses to flourishing natural environments. Patients that are ill or stressed about their mental health may not always be comforted by abstract art, preferring the positive distraction and state of calm created by the blues and greens of landscape and nature scenes instead.” 

It’s important to note that this doesn’t just apply to hospitals, and it can also be carried over to the office environment. It’s easy to see that art does affect the brain. You facilitate a more positive emotional state when you surround yourself with peaceful art pieces, such as nature scenes, instead of loud or combative imagery. 

Light Impact Mental Health

Lighting is another factor that affects mental health and productivity in the workplace. According to a study in 2013, there is a significant relationship between exposure to daylight in the workplace and sleep quality and the overall quality of life. 

Compared to workers who spend time in offices with no windows, those who did have exposure to natural light got 173% more exposure to white light during working hours and were able to sleep, on average, an additional 46 minutes per night. There were some other interesting findings through this study, but the main point was that exposure to natural light was critical for mental health and overall well-being.

Our Co-Working Spaces Can Help 

Book a tour today to see how our co-working spaces can help improve mental health in the workplace. Our spaces are set up to reduce distractions and promote improved productivity. We have four convenient locations to serve you: Columbus Circle, Plaza District, Upper West Side, and Tribeca/Soho.