SANITY AND URBANITY BLOG
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by Katarzyna Klijer, BSc psychology student at Goldsmiths University, London and UD/MH Associate.
According to The Office for National Statistics, around 74% of the UK population is currently employed. Furthermore, the statistics show that working people spend around 54% of their waking hours at a workplace. Considering most of us spend more than a half of our day at a place of work, it is not surprising that stress-related illnesses are rapidly increasing in the working population. The World Health Organization predicts that by the year 2020 mental health illnesses and cardiovascular diseases will be the prime types of disorders affecting working people. Many studies have suggested that buildings can have potentially significant impacts not just on organizational effectiveness, but also on human wellbeing. Therefore, the important question that should be addressed is: how can we improve our employees' mental health through the design of workplaces. Perhaps it is time to start thinking of building design as an explicit employees’ benefit, contributing meaningfully to their health and well-being.
Many studies on urban design and mental health have shown that even small changes can decrease stress, improve wellbeing, and help prevent people from developing a range of mental disorders - as well as improving productivity. Organizations should consider the applications of this research in workplace design.
An important design opportunity when considering mental health in any workplace is access to a natural environment. People working in an environment that incorporates natural elements such as daylight have reported a 15 percent higher level of well-being (reduced stress levels) compared to those who lack access to daylight or other elements of the natural environment in their place of work.
Light has a strong impact on peoples’ circadian rhythm and hormonal activity which fundamentally influences quality of sleep, mood, energy, productivity, and our overall wellbeing. Thus, maximising daylight in the workplace should be a priority for employee wellbeing.
Access to outdoor areas encourages people to spend their breaks outside; it has been suggested that workplaces should provide access to outdoor areas to help boost employees' mental health.
Indoor biophilia touches in interior design may have important impact on employees' mental health. Biophila touches, for example placing more plants in office areas to reduce stress levels, or incorporating sounds from nature, for instance rippling water, may help individuals recover faster from stressful experiences compared to building noises (for example, air conditioning equipment).
'Green buildings' have been positively correlated with peoples’ well-being and their job satisfaction (Heerwagen, 2000), and the concept has started to be used in many workplaces. Common green building features include: (1) Advanced ventilating and mechanical systems to increase air flow, (2) Selection of building materials and furnishings that have low toxicity, (3) Increased contact with the natural environment, and (4) greater attention to construction, maintenance and operation of buildings to reduce build up of microbial agents.
Example of an office with maximised daylight, incorporating a view of a natural environment
A second essential consideration for wellbeing in workplaces is social interaction. While privacy and quiet spaces are important, loneliness and isolation can be associated with stress and depression. Given that more than half of people's waking hours are spent at work, it is important for employees to feel they are part of a community. Research by Clark and Watson (1988) found positive moods to be associated with daily events, especially social interaction among workers. Therefore, spaces that encourage community and engagement, for instance, cafeterias with a coffeehouse vibe or group fitness spaces are important.
Example of an outdoor area design that incorporates some natural features, encourages employees to spend time outside, and promotes social interaction.
Finally, a number of studies have shown clear links between physical activity and mental health. Working long hours in a sitting position does not promote the active lifestyle that is important for both physical and mental health, so workplaces can learn from urban design interventions that aim to promote activity. Designing workplaces with good bike store facilities and safe pedestrian access will help encourage active transport to and from work. Once at work, rather than presenting the elevator as the convenient and attractive default option, workplaces can design attractive internal stairwells that encourage walking between floors. A variety of work areas, light and spacious corridors, and even specific walking routes within and around the building can all promote inter-office mobility . Usage of distance markers or energy consumption information can further encourage people to be active in the workplace, enabling them to recognise and track their accomplishments in different ways.
Providing adequate bike parking helps turn active commuting into an employer-endorsed social norm.
Encouraging the use of stairs: Pacman eats your calories (Brickell Metrorail station, Miami by Active Living Team)
In conclusion, we know that more than half of the adult population spends around 8 hours per day every day, 5 days per week at their workplace, with significant positive or negative impact on their mental health. It is important for companies to recognise and act on this information when they are designing the workplace, both to increase employee wellbeing, and as an added bonus, to boost productivity.
About the Author
Yup, a urban design can improve the well-being of million of people. Its purpose is to design a workplace having the provision for accomplishing a greater emotional well-being. You have to make adjustments in the planning system and structure a good design implementing the urban advancement strategy. I think it's a great way to promote workplace well-being without putting the environmental safety at risk. Lastly, I would like to thank the author for sharing such a unique and edifying post.
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Yes, a good urban design can enhance the lives of millions of people. Its goal is to create a workplace that allows employees to achieve improved emotional well-being. You must make changes to the planning system and structure a suitable design in order to achieve the urban progress strategy. It's a terrific technique to enhance worker well-being without jeopardising environmental safety, in my opinion. Finally, I'd want to thank the author for providing such an interesting and educational piece.
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10/11/2022 11:19:04 pm
I appreciate you mentioning the link between people's happiness and their jobs, as well as green buildings. I'd like to build a new structure for my office. I shall consult a town planning specialist to acquire the best location and design for my offices.
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