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What can "You" do to help create a better working environment?

It’s often out of our control to improve the environment at large, and when I say at large, I mean things like lighting in the office, the building we work in and other people’s behaviour. However, there are things we can do as individuals that will help build better relationships and make our own workspace a more enjoyable place to be.

The work environment we surround ourselves in has a direct impact on our mental health, mood and productivity. It should come as no great surprise that if we work in a poor environment all of these factors will be negatively impacted and make going to work a miserable place to be. What can we do as individuals to help create a work environment that we want to be in?

I’ve created a list of 7 things I believe we can do as individuals to help improve our working environment and enhance our own health and well-being.

Create a workspace free of clutter

Whatever our workspace, whether it’s a desk in an open plan office, a chefs kitchen or a builders toolbox, it’s important to have a clean and well organised workspace that is free from clutter and necessary items.

A clean workspace helps us de-stress which in turn allows us to think with greater clarity and improve productivity.

Top tip. Tidy as you go and at the end of the day, make sure to leave your workspace clear for the start of the next day.

Buy a plant

This might seem like a daft thing to suggest, however a Japanese study concluded that having a well-cared for plant in our workspace helped lower our levels of anxiety and stress whilst improving our overall state of mental health after only four weeks. It also adds a nice touch of natural colour to our workspace too.

Take regular breaks and go for a walk

Spending too long at a screen has been proven to reduce your productivity and dampen your mood. Who has ever found themselves slumped at a screen for hours on end wanting to complete task after task? If you have, there is a good chance that you have also experienced the natural side effect of pain in your neck, pain in your back and shoulders and even eye strain. We become irritable and consequently less productive as we learn to live with these side effects or even find ourselves unable to work.

One of the best things we can do is take regular breaks away from the workspace and add in a walk. If you can, take a walk that lasts for at least 5 minutes.

Greet someone with a “good morning”

When we greet someone with a simple “good morning” or wish them to “have a great day”, we are passing on a little bit of subliminal positivity that helps pick up our mood. For those of us who remote work, send someone a personal message wishing them a great day, better still, send them a video message.

I remember working in an open plan office, and Steve (a senior leader in the Fire and Rescue Service) would go out of his way to greet people with a good morning accompanied with a wave and a smile, regardless of whether they were in his team or not. I always remember feeling a small lift in mood whenever Steve arrived in the office.

Show each other gratitude

A recent study suggests that we often say thank you to friends and family members, but it’s a phrase that is often less common in the workplace. Only 15% of people regularly say thank you at work, while 35% of people said that they had never been thanked by their boss.

By saying thank you and showing our appreciation for one another, we will actively help to motivate others at work.

By the way, saying thank you on its own isn’t always enough. We are complex beings, and our words need to be supported with the belief that we mean it.

Put the phone away

There are so many positives associated with having technology at our finger tips. We want to send an e-mail while away from the computer, we can. Need to check a payment from your bank, we can. Want to find out how cats react to unexpected cucumbers, you can.

Guess what… If your boss wants to get in touch with you while you are on a break, they can too.

We all need some time to ourselves to decompress. This can often be called mindfulness and there is a good reason for why we need to. Not only does it limit the amount of time we are looking at a screen, it also reduces the amount of time we spend hunched over adding to the potential for neck and shoulder pain. The other main benefit to putting the phone away at work is that we are way more likely to interact with colleagues and form better relationships that we all benefit from.

Ask for help and/or help someone else

There is no greater feeling at work than knowing you have positively helped someone with a problem they have.

I regularly practice a daily “random act of kindness”. This can be something as simple as making someone a cup of tea at work or perhaps something a bit more involved like creating a development plan with a colleague that is struggling with a certain skill.

I promise you this, by helping someone else, not only will they seek to benefit from your help, the feeling you get in return will lift your mood greatly and the relationship with your colleague will grow.

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