We live in a world inundated with distraction and inauthentic connection. The digital space of emails, social media, text messages and the internet makes it nearly impossible to stay present throughout the day to a single task or moment, especially at work. With near constant stimulation and an overwhelming access to information, it’s no surprise that stress in the workplace is on the rise.
When our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our bodies, resulting in feelings of anxiety about the past and worry about the future. Excessive stress can lead to illness, physical and emotional exhaustion and depression.
One anecdote to this type of stress is mindfulness — defined by Mindful.org as a state of being in which the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing and to the space you are moving through in the present moment. Rooted in Eastern medicine and philosophy, mindfulness helps increase awareness of the present moment by connecting with one’s senses.
Although practicing mindfulness may seem intimidating to some, in reality it is a basic human ability to be aware of what you’re doing in order to avoid overreaction and overwhelm. Here are some of our ideas for creating an office space that encourages mindfulness:
Encourage the Practice of Meditation
Meditation is a proven technique to practicing mindfulness and reducing stress. Merging a meditation practice into our daily lives results in reduced stressed, enhanced performance, new insight, and increased awareness to the present.
Design a Meditation Room
This doesn’t have to be elaborate — just a quiet, peaceful and comfortable space where employees can go to unwind.
Implement 10-Minute Guided Meditation
Establishing a morning meditation routine for staff at the beginning of each day can be a simple and effective way for your team to start the day in a present and peaceful manner.
Practice on Your Own
Take walking meditation breaks throughout the day where you go outside without your cell phone and simply observe what’s going on around you. Or consider closing your computer and sitting at your desk with both feet on the ground. Then close your eyes and simply scan your body to see how you feel. Apps like Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm and are a good place to start if you’re brand new to meditation.
Design With the Senses in Mind
Designing a space that appeals to our wide range of senses can be another way to encourage us to get out of our heads and become more in tune with our physical bodies while in the workplace.
Here are some ideas for designing a space that allows your employees to be more present:
Visual distractions are far too common in the majority of office spaces. Open workplaces especially should consider using partitions to block sound and create a sense of privacy for employees. Additionally, being intentional about access to natural light can have a huge impact on employees’ sense of presence and happiness at work. Lastly, color can have a strong effect on the moods experienced in the workplace. Read more on the importance of color in the workplace here.
Plants are a great tool for introducing pleasant aromas into the office. Consider redesigning one wall in your office into a “living wall” covered in plants. Plants are proven to improve air quality, increase oxygen levels, and produce healing natural aromas. Additionally, the sensation of being in nature has also contributed to being more present and lowering anxiety and stress levels. Essential oil diffusers another form of aromatherapy, filling your workplace with scents that evoke relaxation, motivation and uplifted moods.
Despite the popularity of open workplaces, many employees wish they had more quiet spaces in their offices. Sound masking is a popular technique using white noise to block out distractions and reduce stress. Additionally, playing recorded sounds of flowing water and other nature sounds throughout the office can cover up disruptions that may occur like traffic. Using sound insulation is another way to absorb excess noise that may be distracting to employees.
Incorporating a range of textures throughout your office – especially those that mimic natural environments – is a great way to stimulate peacefulness, presence and focus in the office. Consider using textures in pillows and rugs, artwork, accessories, tables, and fabrics.
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At its core, mindfulness should be innate to humans. However, because of the amount of distractions we experience, especially in the workplace, many people are unable to calm their minds and stay present at work. Incorporating these proven techniques into your office space design will allow employees to alleviate stress, focus on the present, and ultimately increase happiness and productivity in the workplace.