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By Holly Barry (@HJBarry)

You will likely spend 70% to 80% a week in the office. You spend more time with your colleagues than with your family and friends – so it is vital that you work in a positive environment.

Not only are happy workers more productive, but the cost of long-term stress and anxiety at work is that it is a potential killer.

Technology that was meant to make work life easier now means that people are continuing to work when they leave the office – a relentless cycle of overworking.

However, it is not just the number of hours we are working that have a negative impact on our life – if your workplace is a negative environment even a couple of hours there could be unbearable. The conditions within the office are vital to your wellbeing.

Mental adjustments can go a long way in cranking up the happiness dial and with so much at stake, it is worth putting them into place:


Light up the darkness

Research tells us that our mood is affected by light and this makes sense. Long winter days when you arrive at the office in the dark and leave the office in the dark are not good for your mental health.

A study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that workers with more natural light in the office enjoyed better quality, longer sleep. These workers also found themselves in a better mood, with faster metabolism, improved alertness and in general a better quality of life compared to those with less natural light in the office.

Let the natural light stream into your office. Make sure your office blinds are all open unless the sunlight is making it hard for you or a colleague to see the computer screen.

In addition, invest in a ‘daylight’ lamp which mimics natural daylight and reduces eye strain for those dark gloomy days.


Carve out your own little space

If you personalise your desk with happy memories and things which are special to you, you will re-programme your brain to think about your workspace as a positive place.

Try these fun ideas:

  • Hang up some pom-pom or tassel bunting along your wall
  • Use your wall to display art prints
  • Put up a stylish pinboard
  • Add a homely lamp and a statement clock
  • Use some Moroccan tiles as drinks mats
  • Use different frames for photos and pictures of your holidays
  • Hang a line of photos with string and paper clips
  • Upgrade your desk tidy – rose gold wire is on-trend
  • Add some aesthetic books and stationary and  high quality notepads
  • Add an attractive cushion to your chair
  • Use colourful wallpaper or fabric on your cubicle walls
  • Ask for a standing desk to benefit health and productivity
  • Use your wipe board for inspirational messages and quotes in the style of the London Underground

 Stay close to nature

Nature immediately creates a more positive work environment. Studies have shown that patients in a hospital heal quicker when viewing nature it is so beneficial for mental and therefore physical health. Keeping nature in your sightline at work will lift your mood and improve creativity.

Frame some photos of natural outdoor landscapes, put some natural shots on your computer screensaver and surround yourself with some foliage.

Green leaves are in interior fashion at the moment so you will see plenty of trendy plant pots for sale. If you can’t upkeep a plant, go for a cactus for contemporary chic.

You can even suggest a ‘living wall’ to your office as an addition for communal positivity –  and it looks good too!

Stop apologising unnecessarily

Women apologize more than men in the workplace for the wrong reasons and this can breed a culture of negativity. It is important to be polite, kind and sensitive, but saying sorry too much can undermine others confidence in you and you can seem unsure of yourself.

Saying sorry without needing to is the verbal equivalent of downcast eyes and slouched shoulders. For example ‘I’m sorry, but I really need a pay rise for A,B and C’ or ‘I’m sorry, I’ll just finish…’ when you have been interrupted.

Put an ‘I’m sorry jar’ for the women in the office to put a pound in for every time they say sorry unnecessarily.  Then when the jar is full, buy something feel-good for the office like a tray of doughnuts.

Step outside

Being outside is known to lower stress and anxiety. Try to factor some time outside in your working day and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

You can organise:

  • Walking meetings
  • Yoga in a nearby park
  • Suggest incentives for walking to work
  • A lunchtime running club

Find a work wife

Work friends are one of the most important factors for workplace happiness. Workplace friends will boost office positivity and increase productivity, engagement and wellbeing.

Often you may find that special work buddy or ‘work wife’ – someone who you have a natural bond with and look forward to coming into the office to see.

We share an ‘in it together’ workplace mentality and friendships are vital for this. You are less likely to seek another job if you have work friends as you won’t want to move on and leave them.

Even a quick chat while you are making a cup of tea in the kitchen or a catch up about the latest Netflix show will brighten your day.

If your company doesn’t already organise social activities, suggest and organise some yourself. They can be as simple as drinks at the local pub on a Friday night, a bowling trip or a special dinner out.

Ask your boss for a chill-out area where you and colleagues can relax during a break. It doesn’t have to be big, just enough room for a few comfy chairs or bar stools and a games system or darts board.

Smile more

If this sounds simplistic, it is! Positivity is infectious so if you spread a positive energy the office itself will be a happier place to be.

On the flipside – negativity can spread like wildfire – so make a conscious effort to counteract this and don’t get dragged in.

Try to crack jokes, bring in some fresh fruit or buy a thoughtful gift for a colleague. Buy some fresh flowers for the office. Suggest a music system in the room like Sonos where you can select some uplifting tracks.

Find meaning

Sadly, more than a third of British workers think their jobs are meaningless according to a survey by YouGov.

Communication is crucial. If you or a colleague is feeling this then communicate this to your boss. They can search for solutions such as new responsibilities, swapping your tasks or signing you up to a training course to learn new skills.

Ultimately, your workplace happiness is a combination of responsibility of both you and the company you work for.

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