The Stress-Free Workplace: How to Reduce Stress Through Design

Don’t let the title fool you, there is no such thing as a “stress-free” workplace. The core sources of stress at work are deadlines, demanding clients, bad relationships with co-workers/bosses, etc. Although design cannot completely eliminate these stressors, we can identify the causes and manage our workplace stress through successful, thoughtful design of our work environment.

What Doesn’t Work

Humans are naturally meant to “work” in radically different conditions than what the modern-day office has to offer. We’re meant to thrive outdoors in wide-open spaces where we are actively walking many miles per day: think hunters and gatherers in the African Savannah. Although human intellect has evolved and grown immeasurably over the past 10,000 years, our physical bodies and evolutionary instincts are very much the same. 

Today’s modern workplace doesn’t provide us with the wide-open space that we are meant to thrive in. Our offices keep us disconnected from the natural environment, sedentary with lack of physical exercise or much movement at all, and we have unfortunately transformed from “hunter-gatherers” to “sitter-stayers”.

How Can Design Help?

Good stress management design focuses on connecting workplaces back to how humans are naturally meant to work: back to nature. To accomplish this, office design should strive to mimic the outdoors as much as possible, here are some design factors to keep in mind:

  • Visual Connections

One way to connect your office back to nature is through visual connections such as windows, indoor greenery, and using natural interior finishes like stone and wood. When interior finishes are made up of natural materials, the human mind begins to feel more calm and “grounded” as it is more connected to nature. 

  • Audio Connections

Audio connections can be helpful to create a successful stress management design as well. Whether you have speakers play sounds from nature, or better yet, open the windows and have the sounds of nature come in naturally, employees will feel soothed and relaxed. 

  • Olfactory Connections

An additional sensory connection that is helpful in creating a stress management design is providing fresh, scented flowers and plants to bloom in the office. Our sense of smell is related to both our emotions and our productivity in the workplace. Having the smell of fresh flowers, or even natural diffused scents around your office can make your employees happy and relaxed as well as positively impact their productivity. 

  • Outdoor Space

Another way to create a stress management design in your office is to make use of any outdoor spaces you may have access to. Landscaped areas can provide your employees a place of refuge to escape from their stress-filled work day. Being outside in the fresh air, even for just a few minutes, can have a great impact on your relaxation and help you mentally recharge to get through the rest of your day. 

  • Lighting

Another important aspect of stress management design is lighting. The lighting temperature selection in your office space should be carefully thought through to mimic the natural temperature of the sun throughout the day. 

Make Space

Creative design can still mimic the natural environment, even if your office is limited to indoor space. When deciding between the two most common office layouts (cubicle/assigned offices spaces or open floor plan/collaborative desks) consider the Prospect and Refuge state of mind and incorporate both. Humans want to have a “refuge” of their own (a desk, in this instance) but still want to be able to get up and have room to explore. 

A carefully crafted furniture solution can offer a plethora of workstation/seating options that satisfy that primal need for both personal and expansive space. Taking it a step further, consider adding some accessory rooms to your office! A quiet room for meditation/relaxing, a balcony for a brief escape to the fresh air, or a workout space with gym equipment can make a huge difference in your office environment and your employees’ overall health and well-being. 

Why Should You Consider Designing for Stress Reduction?

As a business owner, your employees are your biggest asset. Designing for stress reduction in your office will lead to healthy employees, and healthy employees make for a successful business. When they feel less stressed, your employees will be more productive and they’ll have the ability to be more creative and innovative within their roles. 
There is no such thing as a “stress-free” workplace; but, the right design can help remedy some of the built environment-related causes, giving employees the tools to help manage their own individual stress. There are countless ways to approach stress-reduction and stress management design, there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach; it is solely dependent on your company, your office and your employees. By engaging an architect or interior designer early on in your project to make wellness a priority in your space, you can create the best stress management design and environment that your office and employees need.