Do you ever feel like you’re tearing your hair out at work? Or banging your head against a brick wall? The reality is that workplace stress for many people is more than just a clichéd idiom.

A 2016 study found that as many as 75% of people have felt stressed at work in the last 12 months1. Whether people are dealing with heavy workload, difficult relationships or a lack of managerial support, the resulting stress and anxiety lead to a total of 11.7 million lost working days in 2015/16! As an employer, you can’t alleviate every issue in your employees’ lives, however you can create an environment that promotes healthy practices to reduce stress.

Here are our tips on how to design an office to reduce stress:

1. Use a splash of colour

Taking away dull white walls and enhancing them with colourful alternatives can positively impact your employees’ moods. Bright colours can help to energise and inspire creativity amongst your team, whilst muted tones tend to be more relaxing. Red gets the blood flowing, and stimulates cognitive activity, while yellow promotes creativity and green soothes the soul. Artworks or wall prints with a dominant colour can have a profound impact on reducing stress in the workplace. Just think – are you more likely to feel relaxed looking at a field of lavender (which also connects you to the outdoors) or staring at some beige cabinets? Colourful wall prints at Suez serve a dual purpose of bringing staff closer to nature, while also highlighting the environments that Suez are working to protect.

2.Create breakout spaces

Breakout areas have grown in popularity in recent years as employers recognise the benefit of providing spaces where staff can either have informal meetings, work in a different environment or simply take a break. It gives people autonomy to work in a space that suits their mood or activity, which in turn makes them feel happy and engaged. This allows employees to work in quiet spaces when they need to concentrate, or in a more social setting when they’re craving interaction. It also goes a long way to alleviate stress for colleagues who otherwise feel they need to be tied to their desk!

3. Encourage movement

Science tells us that keeping active releases endorphins, which reduces stress. They also work as natural pain killers that promote better sleep - another good way to combat stress2. So think about how your office layout could encourage physical exercise.

Implementing office incentives to take the stairs, or turning your stairs into a design centrepiece can encourage more team members to take the stairs instead of the lift. AMC Networks opened up their internal atrium to encourage movement between the floors, providing more opportunities for staff from different teams to interact with each other. Shared facilities are another way to encourage people to move around the floor; shared bins, printers and tea points encourage people to get up and move from one side of the office to another.

4. Keep your staff fit

With research finding that cycling to work makes people feel less stressed and more productive throughout the day, integrating bike racks into your office design could be a worthwhile investment4. While some employers like Nuffield Health, offer comprehensive exercise and gym facilities. Simply providing a shower for people who cycle to work or go for a run on their lunch could make a difference. Some businesses even offer a cycle to can help your staff get fitter and beat the stress of the daily grind.

5.Provide a space to think

We all need time on our own and space to think but often in an open plan office, it’s hard to break away from the constant hum and interruptions of the office. A simple solution is to provide quiet zones or thinking spaces where people can focus on their work, away from distractions. These could be quiet zones with no phones or music allowed, or simply using smart furniture solutions like solo pods or quiet booths to allow people to escape from the open plan and be alone with their thoughts. Lindt has made a great use of solo pods to provide separate thinking and breakout spaces away from workstations, in their open plan office.

6. Bring the outdoors in

Did you know that the recent popularity for bringing nature into our office design is about more than just aesthetics? All those wood furnishings, stone floors and faux-grass carpets are part of a growing trend in biophilic office design, which acknowledges the positive impact of natural elements on our performance and mental wellbeing. Whether you create outside spaces for people to get a breath of fresh air, or just bring natural finishes into your interior design, the impact can reduce stress and make staff happier and more productive.

"Our workplace is our second home and colleagues often an extended family. It is essential we provide a safe, happy and stress-free work environment for all."

Dr Karen Phillip, Professional Counselling Psychotherapist