The much anticipated summer holiday season is well and truly behind us and offices buzz once more with the day to day activities of people working within their spaces.
The return to work will see them picking up where they left off, beginning new projects or perhaps holding their first new season team meetings.
In fact, it’s very much business as usual, or is it?
This seasonal return to work can in fact be particularly difficult and impactful on human wellbeing. For some the transition back into the seemingly restrictive working day, spent indoors, is mildly troublesome but for others it will be debilitating.
Why is this?
- Employees often take longer or more frequent holidays/breaks in the summer
- More time is spent outdoors living a ‘Free Range’ lifestyle, in fresh air & natural light
- Increased time in nature also tends to increase natural human movement
- More activity increases the sense of freedom and autonomy
It’s therefore quite natural that when people, the human animal, return to their workplaces they will be jolted into living at work in a way that feels wholly unnatural. Perhaps comparable to the life of a battery farmed hen, producing eggs in a temperature controlled and artificially lit environment. As with the laying hen, the controlled environment of an office is often unable to meet the fundamental needs of those who occupy the space nor allow them to exhibit their natural behaviours.
Adding to the difficulties of readapting to work life indoors is September and the start of meteorological autumn. Days are shortening and becoming cooler, duller and the commute to and from work will increasingly take place under the cover of darkness.
September is also the month that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) symptoms often begin to impact both physical and psychological wellbeing. You can find out more from SADA about SAD and the symptoms and treatment.
So with 90% of life spent indoors, what can be done to improve human wellbeing?
- Take action to improve the indoor working environment and how it is lit
- Encourage Free Range behaviours at work.
- Add fresh air breaks and natural movement, outdoors, to the day
- Sit, stand and move more at work. Inside and out
- Hold walking meetings
It’s impossible to work indoors in a way that suits humans perfectly, however we can learn to more fully understand why this space requires improvement.
If we pay attention to the quality of light and give people some control over over it, this will make a difference. If we see light as being prescriptive, this can help. And if we consider ways to help reconnect people to nature and move as they work, we can make a difference to life at work and to people, the very people at the heart of a successful business.
Jayne Cox has spent 2 decades working in the fields of therapy, coaching and stress management. She is also the Wellbeing’s Director and Co-Founder of Fusion Spaces, a Workspace Collaborative Design Consultancy, with a focus on human wellbeing.