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The environmental impact on mental health

Monday 11th February

Over the past few years there has been an increased focus on the different elements contributing to mental health. With the average person spending a significant chunk of their lives at work, it is right for workplaces to consider what they can do to improve and maintain the mental health of their employees, with mental health charity Mind now running their Workplace Wellbeing Index since 2016.

One key element of maintaining your mental health at work, in addition to the culture and your relationships, is the environment in which you spend those 40 (or more) hours a week. The discipline of environmental psychology closely relates to how we are shaped, on both macro and micro levels, by the environment around us, whether that is natural or built.

As much as a company can do to encourage a positive office atmosphere, and a supportive and inclusive culture, there’s no getting around the effect that your physical environment and personal and professional space can have. The space you work in can have a positive or a negative effect, and there are a huge amount of factors involved.

Hence, when Total Media moved to Soho at the start of the year, to a brand new office space designed specifically for our needs, we were able to ensure we had an office design that helps, rather than hinders us in our own wellbeing.

One challenge that can be affecting in an office environment is how anti-social they can feel at times. Feeling physically isolated, particularly in stressful times at work can have a very detrimental effect on employees. An open environment also helps colleagues to support one another and share skills, ideas and advice, and TM has always had an open plan office. Now however, more barriers have come down and the office allows for even closer collaboration, preventing anyone from feeling lost or alone.

One of the elements that helps lower stress and create a happier workplace are breakout zones. Somewhere that gives employees a place to interact, catch up or work collaboratively. Thanks to a number of separate seated areas, the new office allows us to catch up separately in a fresh environment, which can help us to de-stress in the middle of a busy project. The same areas allow people to feel unchained from their desk letting them be creative and improving productivity.

A lack of natural light can also have a negative effect on workers. Particularly when long hours, especially in winter, can mean arriving and leaving in the dark. The Mind Wellbeing Index found that almost a quarter of organisations surveyed answered that staff did not have exposure to natural daylight. Having been sat next to a solid wall for a good 4 years of my Total Media career, I’m particularly enjoying the amount of natural light we’re afforded on multiple sides, best enjoyed in Soho Park, our corner of green in the back of the office.

Along with the new office came Total Media’s new policy of flexible working, allowing people to set the hours that work for them outside of our core working hours. This ability to address your own work-life balance is hugely beneficial, and shows a real commitment to the wellbeing of those in the office. This is in addition to us now having the full tech capabilities to work remotely – being able to work wherever is most relevant to the work that you’re doing, whether that’s with a client, a media owner, or at home to take advantage of more quiet time to dig into a project. A change of scenery can also hugely change your outlook or productivity.

Whilst the new space we have provides a brilliant new location for colleagues to work, socialise and collaborate, it isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to mental health.  The changes that come with the new office also go hand in hand with the agency’s long association with NABS, not least through their Ambassadors programme which Total Media employees are a part of. Real, active mental health support on an on-going basis go hand in hand with bigger changes that mean the agency can improve and maintain our mental health as a workplace.

 

Post: Mental health charity MIND do a huge amount of work including Mental Health Awareness Day, for more information click here.

NABS also offer a wealth of support and information and can be found here.

Article Written by

Jacob Bellworthy

Publishing Account Director, Total Media

Jacob works on the Publisher Team at Total Media and enjoys all things publishing, a good book, and the occasional cider.

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