The Office as a Means to Enhance Mental Wellbeing

How does your office environment influence your mood?

October has been declared Mental Health Awareness month by the South African Government with the objective of educating the public on the topic of mental health and reducing the stigma around mental illness. It could not have come at a more appropriate time with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy NGO, reporting that call volumes have doubled since the lockdown, with counselling volunteers receiving an average of 1400 calls a dayi. A good percentage of those calls being from people who have no history of mental illnessi.

Business owners will do well to keep the heightened state of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty in mind as they slowly transition employees back to the office. To take it a step further, offices can be used to support and enhance wellbeing.


A well-designed office enables your team to work effectively, increases their job satisfaction and ultimately, enhances their productivity. The saying ‘happy people are productive people’ is certainly not an old wives’ tale but has been proven time and time again in numerous research studies.

Here is what you can do to ensure that your office layout and design supports your team’s mental wellbeing as they return to the workplace:

  1. Reconsider your office layout 

Ensuring that there is at least a 1.5m spacing between workstations will ease the worry of employees feeling exposed to the virus. Providing sufficient hand sanitisers, placing restrictions on the number of people in communal areas and ensuring that other guidelines are followed – as directed by the Government and communicated to employees – will assure your team that you value them and care about their wellbeing [view the latest Consolidated Directive for Workplaces – published on the 1st of October 2020 - here.]

  1. Have the lux levels checked in your office

The quality of light in your office will have an impact on employee’s mental health. Employees who have been working from home are likely to have had the benefit of natural light during the day that is proven to improve concentration and increase levels of the feel-good hormone, serotoninii.

Wherever possible, the flow of natural light through the office should be encouraged. Where artificial light is used, the accepted range for lux levels is between 300 and 400 for conventional office tasksiii.

Sufficient task lighting should be provided for reading, writing and drawing tasks, with first prize being a personalised lighting option (individual lamps) where employees can control the amount of light at their workstation.

  1. Consider acoustics

Apart from the sound of the gentle hum of the dishwasher, the occasional dog barking and sporadic high-pitched shrieks from children playing, employees have gotten used to a quieter environment at home – free from the usual open plan hub bub.

The trend to open plan and the use of easy-to-clean surfaces that reflect instead of absorb sound, can amplify typical office noisesiv.

Furthermore, research shows that we have a limited bandwidth for the sound of people’s voices. When we hear a conversation next to us, that takes up most of our bandwidth making it difficult for us to concentrate on other tasksiv.

Sound treatments are thus critical for offices – with absorption solutions such as acoustic ceiling planes and re-mountable partition systems - and sound insulation that isolates sound in a certain space, e.g. walls to soffit instead of to the underside of the ceiling.

  1. Air quality

Fresh air is another benefit that employees have enjoyed whilst working from home. Indoor air quality in offices has a direct effect on the health, comfort, and well-being of employees. Ineffective air-conditioning systems can increase the risk of COVID-19 and other illnesses spreading.

With aircons having been out of use for some time, it is imperative that systems are checked and cleaned by professionals and that air quality levels are tested in the workplace.

There are many other factors that can be considered to create an environment that supports the physical and mental wellbeing of employees. If you are considering implementing some of these positive changes to your workplace, contact us now for an obligation free consultation on 011 100 8266 or email


i SADAG (2020). SADAG’s Online Survey Findings on Covid-19 and Mental Health. Retrieved from

ii Hammond, P. (2015). Workplace lighting – the office environment. Retrieved from

iii Osburn, L. (n.d.). Green Building Handbook for South Africa Chapter: Lighting. Retrieved from

iv Building and Décor (2016). Acoustics in offices – get sound savvy. Retrieved from

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