I just came across an article in the Huffington Post, “10 Hidden Stressors Lurking in Your Workplace,” and it’s funny, but none of the stressors listed in the piece are stressful to me for the reasons the author, Alan Kohll, points out.
The first thing Kohll notes as a possible stressor is the office layout. He notes the need for good flow through the office, so you can get to the places you need to get to easily, and so people who work together can meet easily in common seating areas. I wouldn’t be stressed out because I have to walk a distance to get to the office of a colleague or to meet with co-workers. Just the opposite, I would appreciate the chance to stretch my legs, and would enjoy the time to think that a long walk through the office would give me. More importantly, I would consider the long walk a good tradeoff to having noisy, intrusive meeting areas strewn around my cubicle.
One thing that would make the layout of my office less stressful is if there were more circuitous routes I could take places. For instance, I’d like to be able to snake around the back of my cubicle to avoid the man who sits next to me, who makes me uncomfortable, his head seeming to perk up like a dog who hears the car keys jingle every time I walk past. Or to notice someone whose company I don’t enjoy heading toward me far down the hall, and be able to handily dart into a hallway, leading to the same place I’m going, to avoid them.
Similarly, Kohll notes the importance of placing the copier, or other shared office equipment, in an easily accessible area, and that it be in working order. I agree that you would want it to be in working order, but who wants a copy machine next door to their cubicle or office, and have to endure people marching back and forth past their desk all day? That’s what’s called atmospheric pollution. The thing that would improve the copier situation would be for some ingenious company to come up with an economical way for each person at the company to have their own little, very basic, copier right on their desk. I’m surprised no company has thought of a way to do that. Maybe we’ll be hearing about an invention like this on Shark Tank soon.
The restroom is another point of stress mentioned in the article. I agree with Kohll that restrooms should be clean, but it’s also nice to have restrooms that allow for privacy. When I’ve traveled to Europe, I’ve noticed they have more restrooms with the kind of stalls that go all the way down to the floor, so that each person is encapsulated in their own small, private room. It really improves quality of life (and smell) when you have that kind of privacy. If you can’t have stalls like that, the next best thing is to have more than one handicap stall that’s set apart from the other stalls. My company just has one handicap stall set apart from the others, so if you’d like privacy, you always have to cross your fingers it’ll be open and that the one employee who actually requires a handicap stall won’t be in the office that day.
If your company has money to spend on a restroom renovation, another great thing to consider is germ containment. It’s possible in today’s world to have a touch-less restroom, which might vastly cut down on the number of sick days employees need to take. It would require an automatically opening and closing bathroom door (every supermarket has one), stall doors that also automatically open when they sense someone outside of them (as long as they’re not locked, of course) and then lock from the inside by pushing a button on the floor with your foot. Another button on the floor, or low on the wall, also could be pressed with your foot to flush the toilet (automatically flushing toilets never seem to work properly). Then, of course, motion-activated sinks, soap dispensers, and paper towel or hand dryers would need to be installed. It would be costly, but think of all the office mini-epidemics you could prevent, and how much money in lost productivity would be saved.
Chairs are another of Kohll’s identified stressors. He worries in the article about poor posture leading to back pain and overall discomfort. One thing I worry about is getting enough of a chance each day to put up my feet. I would love a design for a desk chair that would come with a small ottoman that would fit under the desk, or a way to have a chair that allowed you to press a button on the side to sit with your legs extended. The chair could have a tray table that could be brought out so that you could place a laptop, or keyboard, on top of it so you could work with your legs extended, as if you were working on a patio in a comfortable lawn chair instead of stuck sitting upright at a desk in a cubicle.
Wi-Fi is noted in the article as a stressor when it doesn’t work properly. How about when you don’t have it at all? I’ve never worked in an office with wi-fi. This makes a mobile office in which employees can move around looking for comfortable places to work and think impossible. It ties you to your desk. I wonder if being tied to your desk encourages static thinking.
Natural lighting is highlighted as yet another stressor. That’s one I would agree with. I write for a magazine about the optical industry, and have read research about the dangers of light emitted from electronic devices and artificial lighting. Called blue light, the less you have of it, the better. An office with large windows and skylights could mean the reduction of your energy bill and less exposure to harmful blue light, which some doctors believe can damage the inside of your eyes.
When I think about the ideal office environment, I think most of how to avoid the things (and people) that make me uncomfortable and distract me from my work. What do you think of when you dream about the ideal workspace for you and your employees?