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How your office affects your mental health and increases stress



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Most offices have two purposes: Productivity and nd cooperation. There is nothing wrong with these two design goals. However, more and more research shows that modern work environments can negatively affect your mental well-being.

"People working full-time outside their home spend around 33 percent of their wake-up hours at work," writes Jennifer Veitch, Ph.D., in a 2011 report on workplace design and mental health. That's a lot of time to be locked in a less than optimal room. "Exposure to physical conditions at work that can affect your physical or mental health is lengthy and frequent," adds Veitch.

Here are some ways in which the design of your office affects your mental health – and how you can handle it

It's Dark

People who work in windowless or dark offices, suffer from sleep disorders and poorer well-being than people exposed to daylight. That's Northwestern University, according to a 2014 study.

Natural light, especially in the morning, helps regulate the body's clocks in a way that promotes healthy sleep, Dr. Ivy Cheung, co-author of the NU study. Spend the whole day in a dark or artificially lit room, and these clocks can be thrown away. This may increase the risk of restless sleep patterns, which in turn increases the risk of depression and other mental disorders, their study suggests.

If you can not move your desk near a window, you can spend the sleep-wake cycle outdoors for 15-20 minutes at night, says Cheung.

It's loud

Due to the popularity of open workspaces, most of us are forced to listen to the conversations of our colleagues, to mix the paper and to type disturbingly loud. According to a 2016 study, the effect of distracting ambient noise is associated with a decline in mental health – probably because noise increases stress.

The more annoyed you are at background noise, the more your mental health will suffer, the study suggests. Noise cancellation headphones can help, say experts.

Isolating

Harvard Business School research has shown that open-office plans ironically put off face-to-face interaction. "Open architecture seemed to be a natural human response to social withdrawal from office, interacting via email and IM instead," the Harvard researchers write. Personal interaction between employees decreased by 70% in open office space, according to their study.

The use of digital forms of communication can lead to a deterioration in mental health. Many researches, including a recent study on military veterans, have shown that person-to-person personal interactions are associated with a lower rate of depression and other mental disorders, while digital communication does not have the same effect

Colleagues go out to lunch, this can be an effective antidote. Leaving the office and leaving the computer should facilitate real personal conversations. And some of them seem to promote mental health every week, according to the veterans' study.

It is Artificial

Researchers have found that exposure to "natural environments" – including green spaces such as parks or forests, and blue spaces such as rivers and coasts – can enhance well-being.

And a study from the year by PLOS ONE linked "natural elements" in the office – stuff like plants of fountains – with lower levels of depression. If your office is a gray tangle of plastic and metal, that's bad.

If you equip plants with plants, the study recommends PLOS ONE . The decorating of your office or cabin with photographs of forests or other outdoor shots can also help combat stress, finds a study from the Netherlands of 2015.

Impersonal

The lack of privacy in open-plan offices makes you feel that your boss or colleagues always look over your shoulder. This can lead to "emotional exhaustion", which is also called burnout. This is according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology .

However, this study has shown that personalizing your office space with your own belongings – pictures, memorabilia, tchotchkes, etc. – can make your desk or office feel more like being in your personal space, counteracting the negative effects ,

It is disorganized

Some people do well in confusing environments. In fact, a messy desk can inspire creativity. However, research has also shown that for many of us a sloppy or disordered space leads to the loss of emotional control. This means that you may have difficulty keeping your attention – or keeping your stress or anxiety under control – if your workplace is a pit.

If you feel that your chaotic office is doing more harm than good to you, tidying up is an obvious solution. If you can not control the clutter in your environment, try to arrange your desk so that the clutter is out of the field of view. Research from Princeton University shows that this can help reduce the effects of disorder on your attention.


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