How to reduce the impact of a stressful workspace

Much research has been done looking at how open-plan offices affect workers – and it doesn’t tell a great story.

Our open-plan offices are making us more stressed, less productive, and even sick. According to one study, workers who moved from private to open-plan offices were less satisfied and more stressed by their environments – even after a six month settling in period.

But how do we combat the stressful effects of the open-plan office? Here’s four ways:


While many modern offices have clear desk policies thanks to hot desking, being able to personalise your workspace is one thing that researchers suggest helps to reduce the negative effects of open-plan offices. Bringing in photos, souvenirs and children’s drawings provides a greater sense of ownership and control over a space - something that has been lost in the trend of open-plan offices.

“Creating a place of one’s own in an otherwise public workspace environment should further contribute to individuals’ positive cognitive and affective states, resulting in enhanced mental resources, enabling better coping with the potentially debilitating interferences associated with low privacy,” according to psychological scientists Gregory A Laurence, Yitzhak Fried and Linda H Slowik.


Personalisation isn’t an excuse for clutter, however. Researchers recommend organising your desk if you want to be less stressed and more productive.

“Our productivity is impacted by our level of organisation,” Susan Kousek, a certified professional organiser, told Forbes. “Disorganisation bothers most people and causes stress. The clutter of disorganisation drags many workers down.”

Read more: Is your office making you sick?


If you’re in a workspace that doesn’t allow for personalisation of your own desk, try getting some inspiration on the walls instead. A study by the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA) found that 78 per cent of employees think that having art in the workplace helps to reduce stress. 

“The workplace art collection is often an underutilised, sometimes overlooked, business asset," said Judith A Jedlicka, president of the BCA. “The results of this survey point to the fact that art in the work environment fosters creativity, boosts employee morale and sparks dialogues – all of which are essential to a company's success.”

Check out the view

While city-based offices don’t always offer the most scenic of vistas, the view outside of your office could unlock a wellbeing boost.

“People spend a lot of time at work and their environment definitely affects them,” Chanuki Seresinhe, researcher at Warwick Business School, told the Guardian. “So if pleasant scenery makes people feel better, there’s a good case that the scenicness of their working environment will have a similar effect.”

But the power of the scenic can also be found in cities. “It’s not about nature versus the city. The scenic affect exists in cities too. Buildings can be scenic [and] there are things you can do to make the urban environment more scenic as well.”

Thumbnail from gettyimages.

Spaces & Places: Learn about the latest workspace trends. Read More.


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