Wanting a nice-looking workspace is kind of a no-brainer, but did you know that the physical work environment can actually have scientifically measurable effects on stress?
Atalasoft is currently undergoing an “Office Beautification” process (not that it wasn’t beautiful before – we just want to make it even MORE beautiful!). Of course, me being the psych nerd that I am, I decided to do some research on the types of consequences we might see with our improved workspace.
I stumbled across this article published by Wolters Kluwer and sponsored by the European Society of Cardiology. The study, performed by Thayer et al. in 2009, focused on a group of 60 employees working in the same government building. The building was in the middle of being renovated, which allowed for the splitting of the study group into 2 subgroups according to environment. The first subgroup was located in the older part of the building (the “traditional” work environment, characterized by separate offices and old-looking cubicles), and the second subgroup in the newly renovated part (composed of new cubicles with improved views and lighting).
This is the already-beautified part. No improvement needed here!
Researchers looked at two physiological measures of stress response: 1. Circadian variations in vagally mediated heart rate variability (HRV; basically, differences in heartbeat intervals during the day versus at night) and 2. Morning levels of salivary cortisol. Observations were made with the understanding that healthy individuals have prominent variation in HRV (with more variation occurring during the day and a significant decrease in variation at night) and relatively low and stable cortisol levels, especially upon waking.
What the scientists found was that the “traditional” office environment yielded less circadian variation in HRV (meaning that the workers’ nighttime HRV closely resembled their daytime HRV) and a larger rise of cortisol upon waking as compared to the more modern office environment. So basically, the “traditional” environment stressed out its workers!
Not gonna lie… Domo and his OJ stress me out a little bit.
This isn’t exactly a revolutionary conclusion; you could probably draw a similar one based on your own personal experience. But it is pretty exciting to finally get some scientific evidence of work environment influence, as few studies have been performed up until this point.
I mean, it really just helps to build the case for a nicer office. Past studies have shown that stress at work can lead to increased absenteeism and worker turnover, as well as decreased job satisfaction and productivity. Even worse: stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease. No company wants sick (or dead) workers!
While software engineering, sales, and support can be pretty stressful jobs, I’d say Atalasoft does its best to buffer the physiological impact with its superior work environment. We’ve got a spacious and well-lit suite with brightly painted walls and a fantastic view of Mount Tom. Our offices and cubicles are arranged in a way that allows for socialization and collaboration, but also quiet individual work when necessary. We have a fully-stocked supply of snacks and coffee (with over 20 flavors in the cabinet), and a number of gaming systems available to blow off steam. And dude. We even have a Super Mario mural on our wall.
If you’re looking to improve your own work space, there are a few lessons you can learn from Atalasoft:
The brighter (paint colors AND lighting), the better
Every space counts – including storage closets and bathrooms
Our bathroom is getting ready for a paint job
Make the office interesting! Decorate your personal work space with action figures from your favorite movies (i.e. an 18” Eward Scissorhands collective figurine with sound and motion capability), random toys (like an Airzooka or a singing Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog), or items from a personal collection (it’s okay to be a Mickey Mouse fanatic at work!). In common spaces, display old print marketing campaigns in frames, show off the company chocolate fountain, or set up a 5-gallon fish tank. Your goal should be to create a space that encourages individuality, creativity, and passion.
I would suggest you don’t get on Joann’s bad side – she’s got some heavy artillery!
And it can’t hurt to make sure the office temperature is above 70 degrees at all times! (Or maybe that’s just my personal preference…)