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According to the Workplace Happiness Report from Office Genie, office design factors are impacting on employee happiness and resulting in workplace stress.

The report which covers stressors impacting well-being; popular incentives to boost happiness; and the working environment in terms of culture and design revealed that 40% of all work-related illness was attributable to stress in 2014/56.

Considering that job satisfaction is reported to be at an all-time low, this is really something that employers really must sit up and take notice of.

Office design is key to employee well-being

What’s most interesting to us is the responses regarding the office environment. The report found that feeling comfortable with the design of your office boosts workplace happiness by 33%.

It will probably come as no surprise the factor most likely to cause unhappiness is the open plan office design. The type of space that lends itself to employee happiness is a cubicle design. The second most favourable is a traditional set up of many/several small rooms with open-plan offices being to blame for the least happy workers.

More privacy, please

They also found that 40% of workers feel that they do not have enough privacy which can be attributed to open plan design.

A study by four Stockholm scientists a few years back looked at the ways in which the different layouts of offices is related to sick leave days taken.

They researched many different configurations and for female workers, the worst offenders – in terms of sick days – were open plan offices.

The scientists also explained that it’s a biological fact that whenever you’re in a ‘crowd’ or public setting, the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism is on permanent standby, even if you’re completely unaware of it impacting on your adrenal glands (and the knock-on effect on the immune system) which is why lack of visual privacy affects heightens stress levels and causes sickness.

To get a further insight into the effect of the working environment, Office Genie asked respondents about sensory factors: temperature, light, and noise. While most respondents were comfortable with the three, many employees are discontent with the excess or deficiency of these elements.

The report demonstrates that the working environment - in terms of office design and culture - has a significant impact on happiness levels so what should needs to be done to improve office design?

Employee-led office design

The answer seems to be in the provision of multi-purpose workspaces and employer flexibility to let staff decide what’s best for them. Some tasks require brainstorming, creativity and buzz whereas others demand peace and quiet. Some people thrive on being around others, having some music on and talking whilst they work, while others can only work if able to get their head down in a quiet space. Until employers recognise and cater for this in their office design, nothing will change and stress will continue to be a workplace issue.