Workers say office has positive effect on mental health

24 August 2016 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal

A study released by international real estate adviser Savills and the British Council for Offices (BCO) shows that almost half (46 per cent) of office workers think the office has a positive effect on their mental health. 

Another 40 per cent think it has a positive impact on their physical health. 

A clear correlation is shown between those who say they have less control over the setup and design of their working environment and those who report negative physical and mental health scores.  

The report, What Workers Want, polled 1,132 office workers across the UK, asking employees what factors they look for in a workplace, and to what extent they believe that their current environment satisfies those requirements. 

Those who work in a private office, as opposed to an open-plan one, are more likely to say it has a positive impact on their mental health (50 per cent opposed to 45 per cent)  and women are more likely to respond positively than men (48 per cent to 45 per cent). 

The survey also asked about physical health, with 40 per cent of respondents saying the office also has a positive effect on their physical state, with 30 per cent saying it has a negative effect. 

What Workers Want highlights the strong correlation between having control over one’s working environment and mental and physical health. Workers who say they had little or no control over their environment are far more likely to say the environment has a detrimental impact on both their mental and physical well-being.  

Savills also compares respondents’ satisfaction with the light and temperature in their office with their views on how the office effects their mental and physical health. It was to be expected that those who are dissatisfied with their office temperature also reported that the office had a negative impact on their physical health, but the same was also true for their mental health. 

Seventy-two per cent of those who said they were “very satisfied” with the temperature of their office also said the office positively affected their mental health, with only 9 per cent reporting a negative impact. In comparison, of those who said they were “‘not at all satisfied” with the office temperature, 56 per cent said the office had a negative impact on their mental health, with 24 per cent reporting a positive impact. 

Steve Lang, director, of  Savills research and author of the report, said:  “Just as ‘wellness’ has become a bigger issue in wider society, it has also become a hot topic in the office, with occupiers taking steps to improve things such as natural daylight in the office in recognition that this impacts mental health. We, however, haven’t heard much about the apparent role that temperature plays in mental health. 

“Given the potential knock-on effects, this needs to be looked at in more detail when designing the office. Office temperature wars are a perennial issue, but advances in technology will help: more nuanced monitoring of heat levels, climate control office chairs and integrated fans are already on the agenda and are likely to be permanent features of the office of the future.” 

 

Jeremy Bates, head of Savills Worldwide Occupier Services, said: “That two-thirds of employees think that the office has a neutral or positive impact on their mental and physical health is very encouraging. But there is work to do to support the remaining third who say it has a negative impact. 

“The fact that those who say they have more control are more likely to report better physical and mental health demonstrates the value of giving employees decision-making powers over simple aspects of the workplace — thereby empowering them. On the whole, however it’s a positive picture for the office.”  

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