IT Brief Australia - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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Transforming office desks into stress-free sanctuaries
Wed, 11th Oct 2023

With many people already well and truly back at their office desk working away in response to businesses calling for a return to work, stress and workplace conflict is on the rise.

Jenny Folley, a highly respected workplace expert known for introducing coworking to Australia and building successful flexible office space brands, including @WORKSPACES, which has multiple sites across the country and overseas, is urging workers to turn their office desks into stress-free sanctuaries to reduce stress and workplace angst.

"We are seeing an increase in loud quitting and workplace conflict because people are stressed and struggling to re-adjust to office life and working around so many people in a confined space," Folley said.

"People have been working at home for nearly three years. In this time, they got used to working by themselves and lost their workplace mojo. Now that they are back at work sitting in such close proximity to others, they are struggling and not dealing with the sardine factor well at all."

"My strong advice to people is to turn your workstation into a stress-free sanctuary. Workplaces should be encouraging staff to do this and providing the tools and funding to achieve this."

"The impact of creating a stress-free sanctuary should not be overlooked. Research shows that this can improve productivity and reduce stress by up to 30 percent. Not only will it help to improve everyone's time at work, it will also support businesses to retain good people."

"Job-hopping is still at an all-time high with people finding it difficult to settle into jobs post COVID. Creating better workspaces more conducive to positive mental health will assist people to enjoy their workplace more and help businesses to build a productive workplace with long term team members."

According to Folley, while staff can't change the general work environment, they can make changes at their own desk to create a zen-like environment.

"We spend a lot of time at work, and it is important that we enjoy where we work. Our desk should be a happy place where we feel comfortable and secure," Folley said.

"Adding personal touches to your desk can help to create a feeling of comfort and calm. Introducing a photo frame of your pet, partner, or favorite holiday snap is a good way to add warmth and positive memories to your working space."

"If you have a favorite tea cup or coffee mug, include this as well. Personal touches only need to be small but can create a great deal of positive energy."

"Clutter can impact mental health in more ways than we realize. Research has shown that clutter can leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and depressed. In addition, clutter and mess are also linked to negative emotions like confusion, tension, and irritability," Folley said.

"It is important to ensure your desk is well organized and free of clutter. Put objects such as pens, notepads, and other items in organization trays or in areas of the desk where they are neat and tidy."

"This will keep things organized and support good mental health."

"It is common knowledge that colors play a critical role in impacting our mood. Blue and green create a calming atmosphere, orange and yellow stimulate the appetite while purple can boost creativity and productivity," Folley said.

"Add pops of color to your desk that are calming. This can be done through accessories such as notepads, coffee mugs, pens, diaries, and post-it notes."

"Many studies have shown that the presence of office plants reduces stress levels and even improves efficiency in the workplace. Study participants reported feeling more attentive, and their blood pressure lowered when plants were present in the room," Folley said.

"By simply adding a plant to your desk, it will lift your mood and improve your sense of overall wellness. They also like pep talks and won't answer back!"

"A clean and tidy work environment boosts productivity and morale, so keeping your desk clean should be a top priority. Unfortunately, desks provide the perfect host for bacteria to flourish; keyboards are problem areas," Folley said.

"Make sure you clean your desk regularly with a chemical-free cleaner. You will feel better, and your desk will smell better too."

Folley adds that making small changes to the workstation can significantly improve mental health and improve the overall mood of the work area. It is also an investment in people which is very important to retain and attract good people and achieve optimum productivity.