How Can a Garden Office Improve Health?

The UK Health and Safety Executive estimate that work-related stress and anxiety resulted in 11.4 million lost working days, in one year (2008-2009). Work environments themselves contain many opportunities to clear stress triggers and reduce absent days due to work-stress. For optimum (stress-free) productivity, time spent working in a detached garden office is fantastic. As a medical practitioner, I have seen many patients with work-stress related conditions. Lets look closer at that garden office environment.

1. Quality of light. Most people enjoy bright daylight and find it improves their mood. In fact, this may trigger a release of chemicals in the body that bring a sense of emotional wellness (endorphins). Artificial light does not have the same chemical effect and a working beside a fully glazed wall gives enough natural light to reduce the energy use of the electric lighting system. Much better for the environment and the personal carbon footprint too. Try orientating your workspace so you benefit from natural light or try a full-spectrum bulb in your desk lamp. You may find that this improves the quality of your working environment.

2. Work noise can cause intense stress. In an open plan office, people talking casually, office machinery, or constant telephones ringing can be very distracting and frustrating. In a home environment, unwanted noise can be even more irritating as it intrudes on private space. Noise from neighbours or from someone sharing the house with you can raise blood pressure and reduce performance at complex tasks. It can cause irritability, muscle tension, headaches, and loss of focus. It makes sense that working from a separate office, tucked away in the garden, removes this stress entirely.

3. Space. Open plan offices lack privacy and force staff to constantly maintain appearances, to be sociable when they may be more efficient focusing on their job. Large corporations have realised the value of flexible home-working and provide garden offices to ensure their staff give, and get, added value in a stress-free space.

4. Commute. The stresses of public transport are more difficult to manage than car commutes because we have less control over our situation. Studies have tracked the direct physiological effect of traffic congestion in raising blood pressure and releasing excessive epinephrine into the body. Stress management consultants may suggest leaving earlier, avoiding congested routes, adjusting the driving seat to a comfortable position, reading or listening to music on the train or bus or using relaxation techniques. A long-term solution may be to move further towards the start or end of the commuting route – or work from an office in your own garden, at least on 3 days a week, between meetings.

5. Cleanliness and tidiness. Dirty, dingy working environments are unpleasant, fail to promote productivity and no-one wants to continue working in one. A clear, tidy room creates space to achieve goals and think clearly, in a comfortable chair with an ergonomic desk. Whenever the mood takes you to develop a creative idea, the garden office is accessible and available. Mind, the mental health charity, says 61% people surveyed stated that work stress caused their ill-health.

The conclusion is transparent – whether working as part of a team, or as an individual, time spent in a dedicated space without commute or distraction is the best arena for productivity and high quality work. With modern communication technology, there is no need to be in a central office. This way, the environment benefits and, most importantly, your health improves.

Jools graduated with an honours medical degree in 2003. She nurtures a keen interest in environmental matters and encourages the concept of home-working for both the environmental and health benefits, among others. Currently working from home as a company director and tending to a growing family.

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