Improving Mental Health in the Workplace

Thursday 10th October 2019 marks World Mental Health Day, a day for global recognition and mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. First celebrated in 1992, the initiative has grown increasingly important as mental health globally has declined. In total, approximately 70 million ‘workdays’ are lost annually because of mental health problems, this equates to 13% of all sick days and around £2.4 billion for companies. According to charity Mind, one in four adults will experience a mental health issue every year, and one in six will report a common mental health problem each week having a significant impact on working life. The most important steps an employer should take to tackling the issue of mental health in the workplace is to successfully implement a workplace mental health and well-being improvement strategy. This practice should allow organisations to put in place relevant initiatives such as mental health training for managers and tracking and promoting their success in line with other business metrics - putting mental health on the agenda. It is vital to raise the priority given to mental health and well-being in order to move toward a culture which proactively manages mental well-being. At The Alpha Group, we believe that a happy, healthy and engaged person is a more productive person, and by creating an efficient work space, employers can significantly decrease absenteeism, increase productivity, improve employee retention and create a positive work environment conducive to employee well-being. Here are some tangible steps that employers can take to improve the workplace for employees creating a more ‘mental health friendly’ workplace through office design and configuration: Work space Aesthetics By investing in workplace design, you invest in your employees. In recent research carried out by Alpha Scotland, only 1 in 10 Scots rated their workplace as excellent for its positive contribution to their sense of well-being and with the average person spending 90,000 hours of their life working – improving workplace design is vital for employee well-being. Comfortable, ergonomic furniture, good natural light and use of a bright colour palette have all been proven to improve employee’s mood and productivity. Another key way to do this is to introduce Biophilic Design into the office - plants and natural elements are proven to stimulate creativity and reduce stress by up to 15%. Office Configuration How employees work collaboratively and independently has changed; ‘breakout’ areas and co-working spaces encourage better communication, whilst more quiet, reflective spaces enable enhanced productivity. Providing employees with both configurations and enabling them to choose how they work best throughout the working day will boost morale and encourage a more dynamic working style. Designing a mutually supportive work environment improves overall well-being as individuals feel their input is valued, and a carefully designed office will adopt an employee-centric approach to how space can best be utilised. Flexible Working Traditionally our working day was carried out on a fixed timetable from nine to five within a confined office space, but recent studies have shown that both employers and employees can benefit from shaking up the monotony of this routine. By 2025, millennial's will make up 75% of the workforce and as a result offices around the world are already making changes to attract the new talent. One change taking place is the switch from desktop computers to mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. The emphasis on mobile technology and a strong WiFi connection means there is less of a need for desks. Workers can move throughout the office, so they don’t have to be at the same work space every day and can also work from home. Having the freedom to work on their own terms leads to a better sense of autonomy for employees, contributing to enhanced well-being. Workplace Culture Workplace culture can be defined as the environment that is created for employees and can play a powerful role in determining work satisfaction, relationships and the happiness of employees. Increasingly, offices are investing in canteen spaces and communal areas which encourage social interaction and inclusivity. By making the kitchen or eating area more welcoming, it stimulates conversation amongst employees in a comfortable, informal environment. Mental health can often be a difficult topic to discuss but improving communication and friendships amongst employees will create a more open and honest workplace. For help and support on mental health issues, please visit:

Biophillic Design in The Work Place

In an urban world of technology and industrial architecture, our fundamental connection to the natural world can sometimes feel all but lost. Biophilic office design is an innovative way to bring the outdoors into the workplace to positively affect the way we feel, work and create; design that connects us to nature is proven to inspire us, boost our productivity and even contribute to a stronger sense of well-being.  As mindfulness, workplace wellbeing and staff retention become increasingly important for many companies, the proven positive effects that nature can have on over-all health must be an integral consideration when designing workspaces. This is particularly important in the corporate office, where resulting ill-health and loss of efficiency can contribute to poor performance and increased costs from work-related stress and absenteeism. Not every space can be designed to include all the principles of biophilic design, but the rejuvenating qualities of nature can be replicated in numerous ways – introducing vegetation, including natural wood and stone finishes, providing access to natural light and nature views or through glass partitioning and living walls (a great example is the large moss wall featured in the Sir Alexander Stone building in our recent University of Glasgow project). There is a direct correlation between clever work space design and improved employee mood and performance. Even simple changes to incorporate nature in the workplace can have a huge impact on how employees feel when they come to work, and how happy, creative and productive they feel when they are working. Colour can also have an impact on staff well-being with numerous reports finding that dull colours can have a detrimental effect; a recent study from France found that bright orange had a positive impact, while in Denmark, shades of blue worked best. A UK based study entitled ‘The Relative Benefits of Green versus Lean office Space’ found that workers with an exposed level of contact with nature were 15% more productive, compared to those with minimal contact. This can be attributed to a variety of factors including but not limited to better air quality, greater sense of wellbeing, improved concentration levels and/or a greater choice of work settings, including outdoor areas. Our aim within The Alpha Group, is to to elevate a biophilic approach to the design of work environments higher on to the global corporate agenda. We consider, where possible, the incorporation of nature into the work environments when planning new spaces, to create inspirational and restorative places that connect humans to their surroundings in innovative ways.

New Home for NI Chamber

Ambition Magazine are running an article this month on The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce's newly furbished office: Ten Eighty Design Director John Roddy shares his thoughts on the project which includes a variety of focused & breakout zones in dynamic colours & textures. We hope the NICC team enjoy their new home! Check out more interior shots here

Ten Eighty Takes Off!

It has been a busy few weeks for the Ten Eighty team who have been working away behind the scenes on an exciting installation at Belfast City Airport. All passengers flying from Belfast City Airport can now avail of ‘business class’ facilities in the departures lounge with the launch of a new experiential, luxury seating hub with furniture sourced and installed by Ten Eighty. The new hub has transformed part of the main departures lounge with comfortable, ergonomic, stylish furniture more often seen in leading workspaces. The ‘Alpha Hub’ will offer charge points, enhanced lighting and more private seating options for passengers who are seeking quiet spaces to work or simply relax in before travelling. The innovative marketing campaign will enable the business to showcase its product offering to the 1.4m (approx.) departing passengers travelling through Belfast City Airport every year, whilst enhancing the airport’s existing facilities with a more diverse range of comfortable seated spaces for all its passengers. It follows the success of similar brand partnerships at some of the world’s largest airports. Global furniture retailer has taken over an entire gate area at Schiphol airport to showcase its furniture designs, whilst IKEA has previously launched pop-up showrooms at Charles de Gaulle Airport and Beijing International Airport. Paul Black, Chief Executive of the Alpha Group, said: “This is a really exciting project for The Alpha Group. Many of our customers are leading businesses across the UK and Ireland, and this partnership with Belfast City Airport is enabling us to target this audience group in an innovative way, whilst effectively upgrading the seating facilities in the departure lounge and enhancing the overall travel experience. The Alpha Hub provides an excellent showcase of the type of furniture we offer and is a good example of how we can bring a space to life.” John Roddy, Ten Eighty Design Director, added: “Passengers often have a significant amount of time to spend in the airport, and we are delighted to be offering a more luxurious, comfortable space in which they can sit, relax, work and ‘re-charge’ before flying. At Ten Eighty we are passionate about creating dynamic workplaces that inspire, and the hub at the airport provides us with an invaluable opportunity to let people experience first-hand the wide range of furniture solutions we offer.” Cliona Arthur, Media Sales Manager from Belfast City Airport, said: “In the past twelve months, we have undergone a complete terminal reconfiguration, with our Departure Lounge receiving significant investment to upgrade and increase our retail units, facilities and food and beverage offering. The Alpha Group’s experiential luxury seating hub will further strengthen the comfort and convenience we provide for our passengers and will be the perfect ‘fit’ for our airside environment. It will also raise awareness of the Alpha Group’s brands among our passengers, who are predominantly business passengers, and allow them to experience the brand while they wait to board. This is our first experiential campaign in Departures and I’m sure it will be a great success. “As the UK and Ireland’s most convenient airport, we continually strive to deliver an enhanced airport experience and exceed the expectations of those travelling with us. We understand that ‘out-of-office’ doesn’t always mean that business stops, and that connectivity on the go is vital for our passengers. That is why we’re thrilled to partner with The Alpha Group on this office furniture hub to provide further and much required capacity in Departures, for business and relaxation.” The Alpha Group comprises of Ten Eighty, Alpha Office Furniture and Alpha Scotland and has offices in Belfast, Oxford, Glasgow and Dublin. In operation for almost 50 years, the group specialises in the education sector as well as private and public sector workplaces.

Visit Our Showrooms

Visit our showrooms in Belfast and Dublin to see the latest designs and trends for the workplace and talk to our sales team about how we can help design the perfect work environment for your staff