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July 9, 2015

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Throwback Thursday: the work environment

A person’s work environment can impact considerably on their productivity and happiness. In June 2007, Karen Coomer argued that work environments designed to facilitate preferred working practices can make a positive difference to employee health and wellbeing.

The nature of work has changed over the last few decades, especially for office-based workers, with companies leaning towards hot-desking and clear desk policies, with large, open plan offices. Often these can increase productivity and communication between team members, but they don’t always appeal to all workers, leading to a negative impact on their happiness at work.

Employees have the expectation of a comfortable working environment, an area that is well-lit with an acceptable temperature and free of excessive noise. Coomer looked at the impact on the psychological health and wellbeing of workers in open plan environments, asking whether features such as plants and relaxation areas help to reduce stress levels, and whether generic, clear-desk policies may not work for everyone.

“Open plan offices require employees to work in close proximity to colleagues, so it can be difficult to avoid interpersonal contact, or maintain privacy.” Those who prefer to do their work in a quiet area or make phone calls in privacy may suffer in such an environment. Coomer also looks at the difficulties in establishing a personalised workspace – something which may bring comfort and a sense of personal control – in a hot-desking environment where clearing a desk is demanded.

“The combination of excessive social interaction, lack of control, and limited personal space can expose employees to over-stimulation. This evokes feelings of irritation and frustration…which can ultimately result in employee dissatisfaction and withdrawal,” she writes.

She goes on to evaluate noise and aesthetics, and concludes by giving practical options for reducing stress in the workplace due to the environment – including designating private spaces and being flexible with things like hot-desking, for those who prefer to work in one place.




What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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