Workplace stress has been named the 21st Century epidemic by the World Health Organisation. Work-related stress anxiety or depression accounts for over half of all working days lost due to ill health in Great Britain. In the UK alone, 15.4 million working days were lost in 2017/18 as a result, up from 12.5 million last year. This equates to 57.3% of the 26.8 million work days lost to ill health according to figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 1
We are sure that you would get a different answer from every person you asked but some common reasons are:
- poor time management so that people feel over-worked
- unreasonable deadlines
- being short staffed or colleagues who don't pull their weight
- being permanently connected to smart devices
- poor sleep quality
- poor posture and being in pain
- workplace design
- the noise made by colleagues on the phone
- the general noise in open place offices
Some of these problems are more easily addressed than others; some require self-discipline and input from management. In the latter case, it could mean reviewing deadlines and staffing levels and providing spaces for flexible working so people can get away from noisy colleagues.
Advice on getting a good night's sleep and not expecting employees to be permanently connected i.e. not expecting them to answer emails out of work hours can help reduce stress levels.
Of course addressing bad posture and poor workstation design with the appropriate tools and measures, including the right seating for individuals, can certainly improve comfort levels and make work less stressful.
Noise can be a big issue. Some people literally shout on the phone and others use keyboards like their fingers are hammers (yes, we have all experienced it). While some people thrive in noisy atmospheres, or the noise just does not penetrate or affect their concentration, for othersthe distraction can be unbearable. In a recent survey almost half said that that they get distracted by noise and about 40% felt more stressed because of a noisy working environment.
Some employees resort to wearing headphones. One way of effectively dealing with noise however is by creating quiet zones with different types of flexible furniture that affords people private, head-down time to focus on particularly demanding or deadline-driven tasks. This can have a positive effect on people’s overall productivity and personal wellbeing.
The power of plants
So where do plants come into play in these scenarios? Both stress and noise are areas where research and studies have shown that having plants around really helps.
Early research in the US, the UK and Scandinavia found that tests to raise stress levels which also raised blood pressure levels found that blood pressure returned to normal more quickly when plants were present. Other research, again from Scandinavia and Australia, showed that if people could see plants from their desk they felt calmer. The Australian research calculated that 'staff who had plants placed in their offices showed reductions in stress levels and negative feelings of a magnitude of 30 to 60%, while those with no plants recorded increases in stress and negativity of 20 to 40%, over the 3-month test period. Importantly, just one office plant was enough to make all the difference.'
And the noise factor?
Again, research (Peter Costa 1994) has shown that plants can help to reduce noise levels in buildings by absorbing sounds and deflecting them. This is ideal to help alleviate the problems of noise in busy offices.
Depending on the layout of an office and surface coverings, plants around the edges of a space help as do living green walls. As well as green walls in situ, many companies offer mobile green walls which can be moved around offices to use as acoustic sound barriers or just to compartmentalise spaces.
As you can see we are beginning to build a picture of just how plants and our connection to nature can assist in many every day work problems and particularly with our wellbeing.
Creating the optimum work environment for your staff will not only have a positive impact on everyone’s health and wellbeing but also promote productivity, concentration, collaboration and the effective fulfilment of your company objectives. If you would like to discuss your workplace requirements with us please contact us online or call our expert team on 0345 345 0898.