With the impact of COVID-19, many workplaces are now offering more flexible options, and the number of people working from home has increased. But whether you work from home or go to an office, the space you work in can affect your mood. There are ways we can consciously change our work environment to help improve our overall mood and mental health.
The two most prevalent factors found in improving mood at work were light and greenery. Sound levels and office layout also featured highly, with a general consensus that open-plan offices are less conducive to positive mood and productivity, and that “to support employee health, interior office space preferably should feature sit–stand desks, plants and sufficient (day)light.” (Colenberg, Jylhä, & Arkesteijn, 2021).
The amount of sunlight you get in your office directly impacts your mood. We all know that sunlight provides us with vitamin D, and “increasing vitamin D status may be helpful for improving mood and sleep” (Huiberts & Smolders, 2021). If you have access to windows, ensure the blinds or curtains are working so that you can modulate the amount of direct light you received while working. If you don’t have access to windows in your work space and are unable to change rooms or renovate, it could be worthwhile looking into the type of artificial lighting setup you have and making changes if needed.
Going for walks outside is another way to get a quick boost of sunlight during your day. You could try parking a little further away to give yourself a reason to walk outside, or sitting outside on lunch breaks.
Plant-loving people will appreciate this excuse to visit a nursery: increasing the amount of visual greenery in a space can improve your mood. Adding plants to a bookshelf or desk is a great way to do this, but not the only way. If you have a window that looks onto greenery, raise the blind to allow a view of nature. If it’s impractical in your space to add real (or even fake) plants, you can incorporate a photo or a painting of nature on the wall. Having plants or images of greenery in an office, and allowing employees to take walks outside during work hours can help increase job satisfaction: “These small and inexpensive changes could result in noticeably better mental health and work attitudes.” (An et al., 2016). Adding greenery will help to elevate mood and has the added benefit of making a room more attractive and more comfortable (Larsen et al. 1998).
Whether it’s changing the greenery or light, or going for walks or playing white noise in the background, the important thing is to take note of your own mood levels when you enter your office space. If you’re not happy as things are, try changing one element and see how it affects you throughout the day or week, and then try another until you reach a layout you’re happier with.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2021). A year of COVID-19 and Australians work from home more. Media Release. https://www.abs.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/year-covid-19-and-australians-work-home-more
An, M., Colarelli, S. M., O’Brien, K., Boyajian, M. E. (2016). Why We Need More Nature at Work: Effects of Natural Elements and Sunlight on Employee Mental Health and Work Attitudes. PLoS ONE, 11(5): e0155614. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0155614
Colenberg, S., Jylhä, T., & Arkesteijn, M. (2021). The relationship between interior office space and employee health and well-being–a literature review. Building Research & Information, 49(3), 352–366.
Huiberts, L. M., Smolders, K. C. H. J. (2021). Effects of vitamin D on mood and sleep in the healthy population: Interpretations from the serotonergic pathway. Sleep Medicine Reviews. Volume 55,101379,ISSN 1087-0792,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2020.101379.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1087079220301222)
Larsen, L., Adams, J., Deal, B., Kweon, B. S., Tyler, E. (1998). Plants in the Workplace: The Effects of Plant Density on Productivity, Attitudes, and Perceptions. Environment and Behavior, 30(3), 261–281. https://doi.org/10.1177/001391659803000301
Loewen, L. J., Suedfeld, P. (1992). Cognitive and Arousal Effects of Masking Office Noise. Environment and Behavior, 24(3), 381–395. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916592243006