Tips for Designing an Office to Combat Employee Burnout

The phrase ‘burnout’ seems to be synonymous with offices. It conjures up images of employees working late nights, eating at their desk, and barely spending time with their families. This is a good representation of burnout, but it can come in many different forms. Sometimes, it’s not exactly easy to spot, either.

The way an office is designed can have an impact on employee burnout, either positively, or negatively. Therefore, it’s essential to assess your workplace and ensure that it’s helping to reduce burnout among your staff, and not exacerbating it. Below, we’ll look at how you can make sure your office is helping to combat workplace burnout.

What is workplace burnout?

First of all, we need to understand what burnout is. 

The World Health Organisation defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” We probably know it as employees who are overworked, heavily stressed, and increasingly unhappy at work.

In 2019, the WHO actually declared workplace burnout an occupational phenomenon in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases. That shows just how common workplace burnout is, and how serious an issue it has become all over the world.

Therefore, it’s clear that more needs to be done to treat this silent epidemic.

How to identify employee burnout?

It can be difficult to identify burnout in your workplace, and among your people. Employees may seek to hide it, or push onwards and continue to work hard. They may feel pressured by management or KPIs in your organisation. One example is workers sacrificing their well-being to hit the number of hours required to qualify for their bonus, though that is more common in the US.

There are some key signs and symptoms of employee burnout. They include:

  • A decrease in performance
  • An increase in the number of sick days taken
  • Affected mood, where people might seem more down than usual
  • Lethargy and fatigue from overworking and a lack of sleep
  • Poor motivation at work
  • A lack of creativity
  • Physical symptoms like headaches and frequent colds.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, or see one of your people experiencing these symptoms, there’s a good chance that burnout may be the cause. And if a number of people display these symptoms in your office, the way your workplace is designed may be a contributing factor. 

The very best way to identify employee burnout is to be told. If your workers feel they can approach management and explain that they are feeling burnt out, there won’t be any guesswork. Together, you can work out how to best approach the problem, improve your processes, and create a Sydney office fit-out that negates burnout.

What are the problems associated with burnout?

Employee burnout comes with a multitude of problems for the employee’s physical and mental well-being. It also then impacts the business, along with other employees in the office. Lastly, burnout can impact the employee’s family.

Poor mental health

A large workload, tight deadlines, and a poorly designed office will inevitably increase stress levels among workers. That in turn can lead to poor mental health, a common and serious symptom of burnout. The most common ailments are anxiety and depression, which will likely require treatment by medical professionals. 

Preventing poor mental health in the office can be aided by designing a relaxed and comfortable workplace. Certain elements help to reduce stress, while specifically designed areas are great for unwinding and doing work in a more effective manner. We’ll delve further into that later on in this article.

An unsafe workplace

Burnt-out employees are much more likely to be involved in a workplace accident. That means that overloaded, exhausted workers are a serious risk in any working environment, including the office. They will be a danger to themselves, as well as their colleagues, along with anyone else that spends time in, or visits the office.

Lower performance

Overworked and burnt-out employees will be less effective at their job. They’ll probably produce less work, take longer to complete tasks, and commit more errors than workers that are relaxed and not overworked. In turn, this drop in productivity and performance impacts the business, which is yet another reason why burnout must be addressed before it becomes a problem.

Impacted relationships at work and home

Employees who are feeling the effects of burnout may experience relationship problems with co-workers and family members. They might be more irritable, less attentive, and more difficult to communicate with. That often leads to issues like break-ups, arguments, and poor performance at work. It goes without saying that these problems should be avoided.

Sydney office design to combat workplace burnout

Treating and dealing with burnout can be done in a number of ways. One very effective way is altering your Sydney office design to be a less stressful environment. There are numerous elements you can implement into your office fit-out that create a more comfortable workplace, promote employee well-being and improve productivity.

Natural elements are a must

Natural elements like plants and light have been proven time and time again to be excellent for reducing stress. Therefore, you should certainly consider including plenty of greenery in your office design or refurbishment. Not only will the visual presence of plants help promote relaxation, but they will create a cleaner atmosphere within the office.

Natural light helps people maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, so do ensure that you maximise the windows in your space, and don’t block light from reaching your employees. This will promote better sleeping patterns, less stress, and a happier workforce. On the other hand, a dark office with harsh artificial lighting will contribute to burnout.

Quiet spaces for relaxation and meditation

More and more businesses are ensuring that their workplace includes quiet areas for reflection, relaxation, and even meditation. This is a great way to ensure your people have a space to go for short breaks, where they can be away from their desks, and the hubbub of the main working area. This can work wonders for mental health and greatly reduce stress levels. It also shows that you care for your people.

Privacy is important

Employees value privacy more than ever. In fact, open-plan workspaces, where workers are herded in like cattle, contribute greatly to burnout. Virtually all workers would prefer to have more privacy at work, and a lack thereof contributes directly to increased stress levels. This is where partitions and quiet spaces are so valuable.

Additional tips, not related to office design

We work closely with all kinds of commercial businesses in Sydney. As a result, we’ve come to learn a range of other tips and techniques that can be used to drastically reduce instances of employee burnout.

Listen to your employees

Clear communication is so important when it comes to reducing stress and burnout. Therefore, an open dialogue helps management to keep in touch with how employees are faring with their workload, and how they feel about their office space. Once you have feedback, you can implement effective changes.

Understand fair expectations

Expectations are important in a workplace. However, expectations that are far too high result in stress, and directly impact an employee’s performance. Therefore, they have to be reasonable in terms of workload, conditions, and working hours.

Hire to thrive

That is, hire enough people at the right times. Don’t expect employees to do the work of two or three people. This is the cause of many cases of burnout, and it’s simply not fair to workers. It also impacts a business negatively, because the employee becomes far less effective in their role. Work stuffers, and so does the organisation.

Looking for a fresh Sydney office fit-out? 

If you need an office refurbishment, full redesign, or just want to talk about ways to create a less stressful workplace, we can help. At Niche Projects, we’ve been working with Sydney businesses for many years now, creating the most effective, relaxing and aesthetically pleasing offices on the market. For more information, get in touch with us today.