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Supporting mental health in the laboratory workplace with design

We are committed to furthering the next wellness movement in the life sciences workplace.

3 min read

Part of achieving enriching workplace wellness is creating well rounded spaces so that employees can harness their full potential. Most recently we’ve seen the workplace wellbeing movement infiltrate the office and laboratory workplace design and build industry. Aimed at creating complete workplace environments that not only serve to make work but make spaces synonymous with physical well-being.

This realisation that design can deliver sustainable value to one’s physical wellbeing is now starting to overturn into mental well-being. Unleashing a proliferation of mental health themed research in the workplace design industry, sparking recognition for innovation in this space.

The research and understanding towards better integration of workplace design and mental health promotion is ongoing. There are some recognised areas we are able to make an impact now in order to help mitigate risk factors. Consequently contributing to better mental health and happiness in workplace and laboratory environments.

Access to nature in the laboratory workplace

Research consistently finds links between green spaces and mental health wellbeing. Greenspace has been linked with reduction of both space and depression, as well as improved social and cognitive functioning.

Immediately we think of incorporating biophilia into the workplace, placing plants and green walls amongst office space. Biomimicry is the imitation of nature’s structures and systems. It can be reconsidered for its ability to capture people’s attention without the concurrent need for concentration that typifies non-natural settings.

Laboratory spaces are often assumed to be white, clean spaces that can look unlived in. Generally having restrictions in terms of what can be included within design. This is due to regulations surrounding safety, hygiene and air circulation. Therefore, ensure areas outside of the focused lab stations include plenty of biophilia, colour, soft furnishings etc. This can help inject warmth and vibrance into the space to create conditions that lead innovation and create a bright and welcoming workplace.

Integrating activity into people’s daily work routines

Most commonly placed as a physical health intervention, exercise can also be considered a design opportunity for mental health. Proven to improve mild and moderate depression, reducing stress and alleviating anxiety symptoms.

A key opportunity to harness this is reducing opportunities for staff to spend a day completely sedentary in the lab. Introducing more agile work environments collaboration-oriented space will encourage staff to move around during their workday. Comfortable break out space will get people up and out of their desk or focused lab station positions during down times.

The link between mental health and strong social connections is increasingly understood as one of the key opportunities for mental health promotion. Creating connections is an objection easily attainable in workplace design.

Creating comfortable social space in laboratories

Laboratories are often seen as unsociable, closed off spaces that reduce socialisation when at work. But by combining the social areas of a workplace alongside the required laboratory space ensures there is space for workers to go to break away from the lab.

Creating features in projects such as breakout areas and open plan kitchen areas encourages positive, safe and natural interactions amongst staff. This helps to embed a sense of community, integration and belonging. Providing flexible, open and nurturing spaces create an environment to inspire innovative thinking, crucial to the success of any life sciences workspace.

Non-lab tasks like reports and write ups are encouraged to be done outside of the lab environment. Being able to see between the lab from the office space and vice versa can reduce feelings of isolation. This fosters an open team environment where the nature of your task doesn’t have to impact your inclusion within the team. This open space can also bring better access to natural light making the lab a more enjoyable space to work in.

A stimulating, variable workplace environment supports people in realising their potential and in turn has a sustainable positive effect on user mental health. We are passionate about creating positive and supportive office and laboratory environments that support your workplace wellbeing programmes. AIS are committed to furthering the next wellness movement in the workplace.