One of the key factors involved in physical, mental and emotional wellbeing at work is a positive workplace environment. Not only can your working environment affect your enjoyment of work but also your productivity, the pride you take in work and your health and wellbeing.
With the varied nature of employment, people typically work in a range of different environments. Some jobs entail working out of doors the majority of the time, whilst others involve being inside in factories, schools, hospitals or offices.
Many work environments involve employees coping with a degree of noise each day, from noisy equipment or music, to the background humming of air conditioning, constant phone calls or traffic.
How can a negative working environment cause problems?
Most people are aware of the difficulties and stress caused by awkward colleagues or tough projects, but other problems can occur as the result of a negative environment.
“Visual and auditory stimulus are both factors in increasing or decreasing our levels of stress. It’s easy to underestimate how things such as the state of your desk, the lighting in your workplace and the view (or lack of it) from your windows can affect your mood and feelings of positivity,” explains behavioural psychologist Judi James.
“An untidy desk can create cluttered or low-energy thinking, making you feel that you’re not in control of your tasks or deadlines. Even the fabrics and textures that surround you can create or sap feelings of wellbeing.”
The way you sit at your desk can also affect your positivity. “If you were filmed at your desk during the day, you may be amazed at how many bad posture habits you’ve picked up – such as sitting badly, keeping items such as your phone or keyboard in the wrong place on your desk, or cluttering underneath your desk so your legs are cramped,” adds Judi.
How to creative a positive working environment
When you’re an employee, it’s rarely possible to transport your working location to a shiny new office, in a prime spot with a fabulous view. However, there are still practical steps you can take to increase the positive vibe in your workspace and the effect it has on your wellbeing.
Clear the clutter
If your desk has become a sea of paper, take time to clear it up and create a tidy, organised desk – it can be surprisingly motivating. Some workplaces even have a ‘clear desk’ policy which has to be maintained at the end of each working day.
Ensure your chair is the right height for your desk and the right position for your back, by adjusting the height, back position and tilt.
Your knees should be level with your hips, your screen should be at eye level and your feet flat on the floor – if they’re not, you may find a footrest helpful.
Bring nature in
“Natural textures, such as wood, stone and plants are more calming than plastics and other manmade substances,” says Judi. Whilst you may be unable to change the décor in the whole of the office, try bringing some plants into your space.
“A number of scientific studies show how plants can make a major contribution to the health and wellbeing of people, reduce energy costs and increase productivity and profitability,” explains Kenneth Freeman from Ambius, a consultancy aimed at creating positive working environments.
Adjust your desk or chair
“The position of your desk and chair can affect your feelings of wellbeing and motivation,” explains Judi. “Sitting with your back to the main entrance can cause subliminal feelings of negativity or pressure, as can sitting in full view of everyone else.”
Where possible, try adjusting the position of your desk or chair and see if it makes a difference.
Breaks are there for a reason and shouldn’t be skipped; neither should you eat at your desk. “Taking breaks can re-motivate and re-boot your energy, and a change of visual stimulus can help to put problems into context,” says Judi.
Employers have health and safety requirements to meet. So if you have concerns about the seating provided or other issues that affect wellbeing at work, speak to your health and safety representative. Through constructive consultation, you can help highlight problems and develop solutions to improve health and productivity at work.
Health and Safety Executive - www.hse.gov.uk
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